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Washington County Sheriff Asks For Addition To County Jail
Updated May 5, 2013 1:06 AM | Filed under: WBIW News
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(SALEM) - Washington County Sheriff Claude Combs has asked the presidents of both the county council and county commissioners to dust off plans that were put together more than five years ago for an addition to the county jail and superior court building.

Combs added the problem is overcrowding at the jail and it's his responsibility to see the issue is addressed.

However Combs, Ben Bowling (president of the council), nor David Brown (president of the commissioners) were in office during the time the committee was formed to look at the overcrowding at the jail or the space issues at superior court.

That committee collected data, toured jails in other counties and explored several options for dealing with the issues, eventually coming up with a plan for an addition. The county spent $465,000 to cover costs of having RQAW, an architectural firm specializing in detention centers, draw up plans and construction documents.

Bids were received and a firm was selected before the project was shelved by the Washington County Council, according to an article in the June 7, 2005, edition of The Salem Democrat.

At that time, the estimated cost was placed between $11 and $12 million, but the county council believed the cost could exceed $16 million when other costs, such as staffing and utilities were figured in.

The county commissioners came up with a plan that called for using a combination of funds including Economic Development Income Tax funds, an existing bond payment on the present facility, income from housing state prisoners and money from various cumulative funds to pay for the project.

Combs says the situation existed in 2005 is worse today. Currently the jail population is around the mid-80s to 90s. The jail was designed to house 56 inmates.

Records storage for superior court was another major problem during the study, but recently, the county arranged for records to be stored in the county-owned Williams building on Anson Street. But a problem of security remains. The court handles a large number of criminal cases and the current size and design of the courtroom creates a security risk for the public.

Combs, Bowling and Brown will review the old plans and are expected to report back their findings to the commissioners.

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