Rockwood might get their courthouse afterall. County votes for Rockwood courthouse (again).

County votes for Rockwood, East County Justice Center (again).  Finding funding for the multi-million dollar project still an issue. Read here!

County commissioners approve scaled-down facility,

Finding funding for the multi-million dollar project still an issue

Source: The Gresham Outlook, Thursday Oct 1, 2009
By Mara Stine

Rockwood might get their courthouse afterall

By a unanimous vote, Multnomah County commissioners approved moving forward with a plan for a new courthouse in Gresham’s Rockwood area Thursday, Oct. 1.

If built – and it is still an if as the county has yet to approve funding for the $17 million to $21 million project – the courthouse will replace Gresham’s old, single courtroom facility on Powell Boulevard. Get Map!

Because so many citizens signed up to testify – all in favor of the project – the 90-minute hearing ran over and two of the five commissioners had to leave for scheduled engagements before voting. But commissioners Jeff Cogen and Deborah Kafoury voiced support for the resolution before leaving.

A small cry of hooray rang out followed by applause after the remaining commissioners passed the resolution, which calls for construction of a new courthouse on county-owned property just south of Stark Street off 185th Avenue. Get Map!

“The resolution is adopted,” declared a triumphant Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler, who along with Commissioner Diane McKeel, championed the courthouse plan.

It’s the first step toward building the courthouse in that the resolution approves spending $800,000 on a “schematic design process” for the facility, which is to house two to three courtrooms and space for the county’s district attorney’s office.

The process is to include preliminary plans, a site plan, architectural specifications, cost estimates and updated budget details.

Once the process is complete, an oversight committee would review it before seeking approval from county commissioners to move forward with design and construction as soon as next spring. It’s scheduled to open in spring 2012.

Dilapidated facility

The current courthouse in the old Gresham City Hall on Powell Boulevard is owned the city is woefully inadequate and in disrepair. The roofs and windows leak, the pipes backup, creating flooding and sewage spills. At times, porta potties have been brought in to the parking lot due to plumbing failures.

Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, who toured the facility on Wednesday with Multnomah County Judge Jean Maurer, called the building “embarrassingly inadequate.” The day’s rain dripped into buckets set out to catch the water leaking through the ceiling.


Some county commissioners did question building cost contingencies, how the county would pay for the building and whether it would be more cost effective to lease space instead of building a county-owned facility.

“There are trade offs involved, we’re looking at an $8 million deficit next year,” Cogen said, adding that his questions about the courthouse project are “not because I don’t value East County, it’s because I value all of Multnomah County.”

Thursday’s vote to move ahead with the courthouse in Rockwood was welcome news, but jaded residents are watching with guarded optimism.

Decades in the making

For 25 years, Multnomah County has studied where to build a new courthouse in Gresham.

In 2007, the county purchased 4.5 acres just south of Southeast 185th Avenue and Stark Street for a new justice center, complete with courtrooms and space for Gresham police and the county sheriff’s office.

But when the price tag more than doubled to nearly $43 million and the economy collapsed, Multnomah County scaled down the facility to a simple courthouse in February.

The county also decided – as a money-saving strategy – to move the project from Rockwood to county-owned land in downtown Gresham.

New plan

The 35,000- to 40,000-square-foot facility will house one large courtroom with space for a 12-person jury, a smaller courtroom for a six-person jury and medium sized flexible courtroom that could be used for after-hours community activities.

Plans call for continuing Southeast 185th Avenue, which now stops at Stark Street, through the site. The courthouse building would be where a closed KFC now sits south of Stark Street and west of where 185th will continue. Get Map!

A secured parking lot would be south of the courthouse with space for expansion farther south or to the east. Until demand creates the need for even more courtrooms, property for future expansion could be used as community gardens.

The county also is considering using a building that used to shelter a house-cleaning business on the far east side of the property as space for community meetings or even Gresham police.

Although Gresham has a police office just across the street from the proposed courthouse site, the city’s urban renewal officials plan a mixed-use development on the urban renewal agency’s property.

Rockwood resident Nick Kahl, D-Gresham, said the courthouse would not only provide a much-needed service to East County but could serve as an engine for economic development in Rockwood.

“Rockwood could have a renaissance,” said Kahl, a resident of the area. “It could see a rebirth. And for the people who live here this means a whole lot more than a courthouse.”

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