Judge Brian Dretke testifies Wednesday in favor of siting the courthouse on the county campus where Shelter From the Storm sits now. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
County commissioners’ decision to move courthouse leaves future of Shelter From the Storm in limbo
Despite reservations, Union County commissioners on Wednesday voted to site the new courthouse on the footprint of Shelter From the Storm.
The new court facility’s construction means the Shelter building will be demolished.
“I’m not happy about it,” said Commissioner Mark Davidson. He and the other commissioners said they wished there was a better option, but that they didn’t think a better solution could be found given the deadlines they are under from the state.
A site plan and contractor must be ready by October, and officials have said land-use and development code processes with the City of La Grande could take months to complete.
One such issue is addressing off-street parking. The city uses a formula to determine how many spots are needed in the public facility zone. According to the county, there are currently 125 off-street parking spaces and the city is requiring the county to provide 182.
Now that a site has been selected, the county can move forward to work on parking and other issues.
“We want to do as much as we can in advance of a proposal and then will complete a site plan and submit it to the city,” said Hanley Jenkins, Union County planning director.
The county was able to get the city to schedule meetings for the vacation of K Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. That application was submitted to the city last month and would allow conversion of 28 on-street spaces to off-street parking spaces, according to the county.
“If everything goes correctly and we don’t have any delays, the first Wednesday in May would be the final decision for the K Avenue vacation,” Jenkins said. “It was going to be six months and we really pushed the city to schedule everything now.”
County officials hope to have a request for proposal for contractors out as soon as this month. The courthouse will be design built, so the contractor will have to come up with the design. The county hopes to have a proposal back by the end of May.
“Consequently, we’re going to go out before the street gets vacated,” Jenkins said.
While the county has much to do to plan for the courthouse’s construction, the future of Shelter From the Storm is unclear.
County commissioners on Wednesday promised to do everything they can to help the agency relocate without interruption.
“It’s vital that (Shelter) continue in this county,” Commissioner Bill Rosholt said.
Commissioners have offered the current location of the court at no cost to the shelter for rent and utilities. Shelter Director Teresa Crouser, however, has said that location would not work for them since parole and probation is on the second floor of the building. She has said they cannot operate in such close proximity to convicted criminals. Crouser has pointed out that moving across the street does not provide the Shelter a space during the courthouse’s construction.
Commissioner Steve McClure said he and commissioners will begin discussing options with the Shelter From the Storm board as soon as possible.