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Construction Begins On Deschutes County Courthouse Expansion

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County broke ground on its courthouse expansion project, Monday afternoon. The project will double the size of the courthouse. County Commissioners and other dignitaries took part in a ceremony at the construction site in downtown Bend, at the corner of Bond and Greenwood. 

After several years of lobbying the legislature, state lawmakers approved the addition of two more judges in 2021. While there are now nine judges for Deschutes County, there are only seven courtrooms. Presiding Judge Wells Ashby is glad to be getting two more, "We’ve been able to make it work with ‘10 pounds in a five-pound bag.’ The county really can’t responsibly build until we have the judges. So we got the judges; we’re kind of packed in kind of tight. This is the right timing." He tells KBND News, "For so long, we didn’t have enough judges. Now we have the judges and we just need some more space. So, this really represents a strong commitment by our community in justice and the rule of law for now and decades to come." He says the last courthouse renovation was 20 years ago.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Commissioner Phil Chang called the $44 million project a major county investment, "We are so grateful to the State Legislature for its contribution of $15 million for the building expansion." Lawmakers also allocated another $1.5 million to remodel the existing facility. The county will borrow about half of the money needed. 

Chang says there are also security upgrades, "Secure staff parking, a sallyport to securely transport individuals who are in custody in and out of court. It will also include public service counters, a reception area, administrative offices and two sets of courtrooms with jury deliberation rooms, judges’ chambers and support staff offices."

Judge Ashby says court proceedings will continue during construction, "The contractor’s working after-hours on some things. They do have sound mitigation techniques. You know, it’s a lot of dirt and dust, and we’re just going to be good partners in that. We have contingency plans for reduced courtrooms and remote proceedings. So, we’re going to make it work." Some of those contingencies were practiced during the pandemic. 

The new portion of the courthouse will replace the parking lot and main entrance at the corner of Greenwood and Bond. A temporary public entrance will be used during construction. 

 

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