County Adds $8M Loan to Justice System Without Voter Approval

The Benton County Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to borrow $8  million to build a new District Attorney’s Office (DAO), adding to the $25 million they already decided to borrow for a new courthouse. Originally, the plan was to seek voter approved bonds for both projects. 

Left to be decided are plans for a new Corvallis crisis center, new jail, sheriff’s offices, and emergency operations center. Plans to seek voter approval for spending on these remaining projects are unchanged for the moment. 

Recently, county officials announced they took the last step before filing an eminent domain action on the property envisioned for all these facilities, tendering a last-and-best offer at the tail-end of last month.  

The new DAO would be 9,000 square feet of office space bundled into the construction of the courthouse project, which will be managed by Benton County Public Works. Design work is scheduled to begin in the fall.  

The Justice System Improvement Program Technical Advisory Committee are the ones who recommended the county move forward with borrowing the $8 million in order to keep the courthouse and DAO together as a means of ultimately saving money and time.  

Benton County Board Chair Nancy Wyse said in a Friday press release, “Today’s decision to co-locate the District Attorney’s Office with the courthouse on the Community Safety and Justice Campus reflects the Board of Commissioners’ commitment to develop an efficient, effective, and equitable justice system in Benton County. Co-locating these facilities on a campus that will include a new correctional facility and Sheriff’s Office will lead to operational efficiencies and enhanced outcomes for County residents.”  

When a recent survey was conducted, only 23% of those surveyed knew about the proposed Justice System Improvement Plan. When asked how they would vote on the $95 million bond measure, those surveyed split evenly at 46% each way – leaving, apparently, 8% undecided.  

At press time, none of the three County Commissioners had responded to questions about this decision.  

By Sally K Lehman 

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