County building a good idea

By Observer editorial August 05, 2013 11:13 am
After failed bonds and years of talking, it seems Union County will finally get its new courthouse in La Grande.

The new courthouse — coming at a relatively meager price by today’s standards and with the state funding much of the construction — seems to be a good idea.

The state funding is courtesy of the Oregon Legislature. That elected body earmarked $2 million — as part of House Bill 5016 — to complete a $3.1 million construction project for the new courthouse.

The new 2-story, 13,500-square-foot building will have two courtrooms, judge’s chambers and staff space. It will replace the current, outdated and — many contend — inadequate facility, which is situated near the Eastern Oregon University campus in an old hospital building.

The benefits of a new courthouse are obvious. The current facility is plagued by overcrowding and other issues. A 2008 study by Heneberry Eddy ranked the Union County Courthouse dead last in Oregon. That’s when county officials began a lobby campaign with the Legislature because other alternatives — including a bond — did not appear to be feasible.

While many of the details of the courthouse remain unclear — namely where the new building will be built, how the operating costs of a new facility would compare to the costs of the old one and what will happen to the current building — one thing is clear: this project is long overdue.