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Councilors advance plans for jail complex.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Step by step, city leaders are moving closer to realizing their vision of building a new downtown public safety complex that will include the largest municipal jail in Oregon.

The Springfield City Council on Monday heard from project officials that the complex should be able to be built for about $29.6 million - about $30,000 less than the total amount of funding available for the project.

In order to make the numbers work, officials this month identified $1.3 million in cuts to various elements of the justice center.

Project manager Carole Knapel said the reductions should not affect functions of the building, which will include a new police department and municipal courtrooms in addition to a 100-bed jail designed to house misdemeanor-level inmates.

Final cost estimates won't be available until early next year. Knapel said the project's construction manager will provide the city with a guaranteed maximum price for the job by February.

Construction is expected to begin in March.

Monday marked the first time that the City Council met to discuss the project with a sense of certainty about what will actually be built. Jail construction was a question mark until earlier this month, when Springfield voters approved funding needed to staff the lock-up beginning in 2010.

That important fact was noted by Mayor Sid Leiken at the discussion's outset.

"Citizens came through, so Carole, now we've got a project to build," Leiken said to Knapel.

The justice center complex is designed to cover nearly two city blocks bordered by Pioneer Parkway to the west, A Street to the south, Fourth Street to the east, and an alley between B and C streets to the north.

About half the total area will be used for parking.

Part of that space will include a fenced-off area for police and court vehicles, where employees of those departments will be allowed to park.

Councilor Anne Ballew wondered aloud about the need to provide police and court workers with secure parking. "We don't give anyone else (secure) parking, so why are we doing this at the public's expense?" she asked, calling it "a perk."

Councilor John Woodrow explained that vehicles belonging to police officers are more frequently vandalized than those belonging to other city employees.

The lot where police and court vehicles park currently is an unsecured area.

After Monday's meeting, Police Chief Jerry Smith said besides the vandalism issue, a secure area will make it safer for employees who arrive and leave work during the nighttime hours.

Smith said he is looking forward to the day when the justice center is completed.

The project will allow the city to demolish its aging police department, which was built in phases between 1949 and 1957.

Springfield voters in 2004 approved a $28.6 million bond measure to finance construction of the public safety complex. An additional $1 million in bond interest earnings is also available for the project.
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Title Annotation:Government; Springfield's budding public safety building project should be able to be done for about $30,000 less than the budget allows
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 28, 2006
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