Two options are being discussed for an expanded Clatsop County Jail at the site of the shuttered North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in Warrenton.
One plan calls for a simple renovation of the youth facility that would include 140 beds and entail more than $12 million in construction costs. The other plan is a renovation and an additional structure in the middle of the facility that would house 200 inmates and cost more than $28 million.
Representatives from DLR Group met with the county Board of Commissioners for a work session Wednesday to discuss the results of a $51,000, two-month study. The private firm examined the feasibility of relocating the jail from Astoria to the Warrenton site.
Commissioners approved the study in May in anticipation of the state closing the youth facility. Money for the youth facility was not included in the state’s two-year budget adopted in July, and the facility will officially close in October.
Inmates at the county jail, a 60-bed facility on Duane Street across from the county courthouse, often are released early due to overcrowding. When this happens, they aren’t required to post bail even when a criminal case is pending in court.
This year, an average of 68 people per day have populated the jail. Out of 1,765 inmates that have been booked as of Sept. 21, 209 of them have been released due to overcrowding. As a result, inmates charged with crimes such as possession of methamphetamine or those who have been arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants on multiple occasions are typically released early.
“If we don’t have a jail population, possibly, of 150-plus, we are going to constantly be chasing the same people over and over again,” District Attorney Josh Marquis said.
The larger expansion plan in Warrenton would offer the opportunity for future expansion of up to 252 beds. Due to the design, it also would require less staff supervision of inmates.
The current jail requires 29 staffers. Just 36 staff members would need to work in the jail under the larger expansion, as opposed to 46 in the smaller renovation plan.
That would result in an 18 percent difference in staffing costs between the two plans, which architects predict would mitigate the construction cost difference after 10 years.
“This is more of the way jails are going,” Sheriff Tom Bergin said. “Over the long run, once we start deferring the costs of all the personnel, we’re going to be a lot better off.”
DLR Group had previously provided similar services for the sheriff’s office as part of a project to relocate most of its functions to a new location in Warrenton near the site of the youth facility. The project was completed in the summer of 2016.
The county jail in Astoria opened in 1980, and its population has grown and shrunk multiple times since then due to economic swings. Bergin cited multiple studies since 1999 that have illustrated the need for a jail expansion, though two bond measures have failed.
Several questions, including what would happen to the current jail, have yet to be determined. Commissioners will likely hold another work session in the future to further discuss the potential relocation.
By the numbers
Clatsop County is discussing two options for an expanded county jail at the former North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in Warrenton. The overcrowded county jail in Astoria has 60 beds and requires 29 jail staff.
• $12 million/Modest renovation with 140 beds and 46 jail staff
• $28 million/Larger expansion and redesign with 200 beds and 36 jail staff. Could later expand to 252 beds