Allie Colosky
The Bulletin

Construction on the new $17 million, single-level Crook County jail is finally underway after the county broke ground on Sept. 7, and crews are on schedule to lay the foundation before winter hits.

“As with any construction, it’s best to get (the foundation) poured before it gets too cold, so there’s a big push to get it poured before we get into the cold part of the year,” said Crook County Undersheriff James Savage. “Crews are working very hard to stay on schedule.”

The new jail was approved in November 2016 after voters passed a $10 million bond — combined later with contributions from the city and county — to fund the building. But construction hit a snag at the beginning of the year when contractors determined that the soil was too soft to withstand the weight of the building.

Crews are currently working on reinforcing the soil with 800 geopiers — 25-foot vertical shafts that are filled with rock or gravel. The shafts that are currently under construction will help improve the amount of weight the foundation will hold, Savage said.

The remaining construction of the geopiers should last roughly a week, Savage estimated.

The layout of the jail and the included cells are not available to the public because of security reasons, Savage said, but the design by DSL Group in Portland was chosen as the most efficient for jail staff. A long corridor, for example, is less efficient when transporting inmates.

“If you’re moving from one end to the other, it takes more time for transportation,” Savage explained. “This layout is designed to utilize a shorter walking distance and a shorter time moving inmates. They designed it with the mind of being most efficient for staff and personnel to utilize camera systems and line of sight. The safety of the staff is most important.”

The jail will have 76 beds and there is potential for turning single bunks into double bunks in order to house up to 90 inmates at a time. The current Crook County jail only has 16 beds and the county rents spaces in the Jefferson County jail to incarcerate more inmates.

Since the groundbreaking, Prineville Public Works has approved funding from the city, moved and upgraded the water and sewer lines, and rerouted gas lines. The use of heavy equipment has closed NE Second Street.

The absence of street parking along NE Second Street isn’t that big of an inconvenience and people might have to just walk an extra block, said Prineville City Engineer Eric Klann. The noise from the construction isn’t as bad, either, he said.

“Typically they have the big steel pipes and they just go ‘bang! bang! bang!’” Klann explained. “But the way they’re doing it, they are vibrating the gravel to get those pylons in the ground. It’s not nearly as noisy as I expected.”

The lack of parking because of the construction mixed with the volume of noise surrounding the construction site has drawn minor complaints, Savage said, but crews are striving to keep noise to a minimum and are continuing to work efficiently.

“It is an inconvenience and we understand that, but we are working with people the best we can,” he said. “We apologize, but we are actually seeing stuff happen, when for so long it was just a vacant lot.”

The jail is expected to be complete by December 2018.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,