UPDATE: East County courthouse needs solid backing. Show your support April 22!

East County courthouse needs solid backing. The long-running effort to obtain decent court facilities for East Multnomah County is once again coming to a critical decision point. Info here!

The long-running effort to obtain decent court facilities for East Multnomah County is once again coming to a critical decision point

Source: The Gresham Outlook (Mar 31, 2010)

And that means East County citizens and leaders must maintain a sense of urgency about finally pushing this project over the top.

On Tuesday night, Multnomah County officials – including Commissioners Diane McKeel and Judy Shiprack – held a meeting in outer East Portland to update the community on the preliminary design for a courthouse that would be built in Rockwood, at Southeast 185th Avenue and Stark Street. That session will be followed on April 22 with a presentation to the full board of county commissioners, who then will decide how to proceed with the courthouse project.

(Everyone in the greater East County area (especially Gresham & West Gresham) is urged to attend the April 22 meeting (501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214). If you cannot attend please submit written statements by email to the County Commissioners here (http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/cc/) prior to April 22 to be added to the record and show your support for this important project! Ed.)

(UPDATE: View preliminary design photos below. Ed.)

Multiple reasons to press forward

Back in October, county commissioners voted 3-0, with two commissioners absent, in favor of an East County courthouse. However, the fate of such a facility is not yet secure, considering that commissioners have yet to approve the $17 million to $21 million needed for construction. And in the months since the October decision, a few things have changed for the county.

For one, the county is now in the midst of budgeting for the 2010-11 fiscal year, and the annual competition for limited dollars has begun. The budget process always highlights the county’s relative scarcity of resources and enormity of service demands.

For another, the courthouse project lost a major champion when former county Chairman Ted Wheeler resigned to accept the position of state treasurer. Wheeler’s presumed successor, Commissioner Jeff Cogen of Portland, has been less involved with the courthouse project to date.

But while financial needs and political realities are shifting once again at the county, one thing that remains constant is the long list of reasons for proceeding with a courthouse in Rockwood. That list includes:

• The fact that East County has waited not months, not years, but decades for a courthouse that fully serves the 200,000-plus Multnomah County residents who live east of 122nd Avenue. If county commissioners hold out for the “right” financial time to build the courthouse, it will never get done.

• The decrepit state of the inadequate courthouse that the county now operates in Gresham. It’s questionable whether this courtroom meets the intent of a state law requiring Multnomah County to provide court facilities in Gresham.

• The convenience of East County lawyers and residents who need a full-fledged courthouse to deal with misdemeanors, small claims and traffic-related cases.

• The economic benefits of locating a courthouse in Rockwood. Such a facility will attract more law offices and other professional services to the community.

• The social services that naturally will be delivered from the courthouse as a part of administering justice. These will or could include restraining orders on behalf of victims of domestic violence, child support orders, alimony rulings, stalking orders, document filings and landlord-tenant actions. As a result of these activities, the community will experience greater livability and public safety.

• The credibility of Multnomah County, which has promised for years, but not yet delivered, on a new courthouse.

Timing is as good as it will get

The momentum to get the courthouse completed is greater now than it ever has been before. The public is more involved, and the benefits are better understood.

Money always will be an issue. But the difficulty of financing this project through bonding and with money left over from the sale of surplus property is no greater now than it will be in the future. Yet, construction costs are at a low point, due to the downturn in the building industry – providing one more reason among many to press ahead as soon as possible with a courthouse in Rockwood.

Preliminary Design Photos

Photos of the proposed East County Courthouse from the March 30, 2010 community forum presentation.

Proposed East County Courthouse, Site Features
Site Features
Click to enlarge

Proposed East County Courthouse, Building Layout
Building Layout
Click to enlarge

Proposed East County Courthouse, Building Form
Building Form
Click to enlarge

View the entire presentation slideshow here.

View a 21-page report with project time-line and financial information here.