Lt. Matt Phillips of the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office talks about the effort to rehabilitate the old youth facility in Warrenton into a new county jail.

The new Clatsop County Jail is moving forward, with a preliminary design expected to go before the county commission in May.

Since voters passed a $20 million bond in November to relocate the overcrowded 60-bed jail in Astoria to an expanded facility in Warrenton, the county has awarded a project management contract to Cornerstone Management Group and an architecture contract to DLR Group to start the initial planning.

Two previous bond measures, in 2002 and 2012, had failed, but a rare opportunity emerged to upgrade an existing site when the state closed the North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in 2017.

Cell block

One of the main cell blocks in the old youth facility.

Construction of the new jail, which will have 148 beds, is expected to begin by the spring of 2020 and be completed by the summer of 2021.

“I’m feeling pretty positive,” said Lt. Matt Phillips, the jail commander. “There are a lot of opportunities here.”

DLR Group, which was tasked to conduct the feasibility study on converting the former youth facility before the bond passed, is now doing initial, high-level design work.

The group is evaluating how much space is needed for what types of services, and figuring out how best to configure the space in a way that would make sense for an adult jail.

Detention facility

Kent Larson, left, the project manager from DLR Group, and Lt. Matt Phillips discuss the condition of the youth facility.

“It doesn’t mean, ‘We’ll have this kind of addiction program.’ It’s fundamentally, ‘What do we need to do in this building?’” Phillips said. “What is it going to look like to process new (people into) custody? What is it going take to do the laundry? What is it going to look like to do the food service? If you have 120 inmates, how much space do you need to store their property?”

Doing this work also gives the sheriff’s office, which oversees the jail, the opportunity to think about ways to make the jail more efficient. For example, it’s important to think about how inmates travel within the jail, Phillips said. A dedicated hallway between where people are held and the visiting room, for instance, would eliminate the need for deputies to escort them.

Thinking about how many holding rooms and where they are placed could also address problems officers sometimes face trying to conduct drunken-driving investigations, Phillips said. With only one holding room in the Duane Street jail, it is often a chaotic environment.

After getting a sense of what should go where, engineers can get a better idea of the size and needs of the jail and check it against the project’s budget, said Kent Larson, the project manager from DLR Group.

Youth detention center

The youth facility in Warrenton has been sitting unused since closing in 2017.

“We’re getting the puzzle pieces stated at the right size, and then conceptually studying where those puzzle pieces go,” he said.

Through this process, architects will also recommend what aspects of the building should be replaced versus what can be remodeled.

There is about $1.5 million in deferred maintenance left by the state from when the youth facility closed in 2017, including water intrusion issues, roofs that need to be replaced and flooring problems.

“It’s the idea of ‘now’ versus what you could do later,” Larson said.

The cost of the repairs has been factored into the bond, but the county still hopes to have the state pay the $1.5 million bill, Monica Steele, the interim county manager, said.

Moving ahead, the county will conduct interviews on Monday to find the project’s construction management general contractor, who will oversee the construction.

In May, the county will also recommend candidates for an advisory committee comprised of citizens and other community leaders who will provide public input and oversight as the project progresses.

Rehab work

Kent Larson, of DLR Group, looks over a section of the deteriorating exterior of the youth facility in Warrenton.

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