It was predictable but unfortunate that the Clatsop County Transition Center will cost some $500,000 more than was initially estimated. That excessive cost was predictable, because the project has been five years in the making.

Tom Bennett's article in The Daily Astorian last Tuesday contained considerable detail about why the transition center project has taken so long to go to bid. All of the factors suggested by County Administrator Scott Derickson were reasonable. But something essential was missing in Derickson's analysis.

The missing factor seems to pervade all law enforcement discussions among county commissioners. It is a lack of urgency and a seeming unwillingness to play for keeps. It is especially apparent in the on-again, off-again discussions of the county jail. But the transition center's delay, plus its problematic operational funding, seems to say that no one at the top really cares deeply about this stuff.

The person who did care deeply was Danny Jordan, the county's former corrections director. Jordan brought deep insight to our county. The concept of a transition center makes abundant sense in the abstract. The basic concept is that certain adjudicated offenders can be less expensively and more appropriately housed and more effectively treated in a less secure facility than a jail.

But everything lies in the execution. Jordan brought a sense of immediacy to discussions of incarceration, and that seriousness is not apparent among county commissioners. It is true that there have been some strong words about methamphetamines. But the forum for law enforcement discussions - the Public Safety Coordinating Council - has devolved into constant bickering and jockeying for position.

For the outsider, it is baffling why it is so difficult for our elected commissioners and elected sheriff and elected district attorney and elected judges to talk straight among themselves and show the public how to build consensus around an incarceration and treatment solution. All that we can rely on is the commissioners' annual embarrassing dis-the-district-attorney's-salary discussion.

Given the protracted process of moving the treatment center this far, we wonder how commissioners will meet not the immediate challenge of opening the center, but the long-term challenge of funding its operation.

Tags