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County project extension possible
Union County may be able to get an extension for its courthouse project, according to a state representative from the Oregon Judicial Department.
Phil Lemman, legislative communication manager for the OJD, said Thursday that the OJD has the authority to disburse funds allocated by the Legislature until the end of the biennium, June 30, 2015, but an extension would be contingent on the county’s ability to come up with a viable plan for a completed project.
The agreement between the county and OJD stipulates that the county submit a site plan by Oct. 1. If it cannot, they must notify the OJD by that time.
Then, “the county has a month to tell us how they’re going to get from here to there,” said Lemman, who is a representative for state courts in the Legislature. If the OJD finds that plan acceptable, they could amend the agreement. Once a site plan is submitted to the state, it must be approved by the OJD before $2 million in funding is disbursed. From there, the county is obligated to start construction within 14 days.
A decision to grant an extension by the OJD could rest on a number of factors but most importantly would need to meet the elements of the project with a cost within the budget and within a schedule “that leads to a timely completion of the new facility,” Lemman said.
He added, though, that it’s difficult to speculate about what would cause the OJD to approve or not approve a plan that comes in after Oct. 1.
Even if an OJD extension is granted, timing is still limited, Lemman said.
“Once we hit July 1, we do not have the authority to spend that money anymore,” he said.
At that point, the county would again have to lobby the Legislature for funding for its new courthouse, a process that has already taken local officials two decades to get $2 million. Union County Courts have been situated in the old St. Joseph Hospital since the late 1990s. The building, which is difficult to renovate, poses a number of problems for court staff, ranging from inefficiencies in the workspace to safety concerns.
For the complete story, see Friday's edition of The Observer.