County Update on Community Safety and Justice Campus Site

The Benton County Board of Commissioners approved a last and best offer of $5.477 million to acquire a 29.53-acre parcel of land for the new Community Safety and Justice Campus. The property is situated along highway 20, approximately one mile north of downtown Corvallis, and zoned general industrial.

The property was selected by the Board of Commissioners in January 2022 after an 18-month, community-involved process that evaluated multiple options for siting new safety and justice facilities planned as part of the Justice System Improvement Program (JSIP). These proposed facilities include a new courthouse, emergency operations center, sheriff’s offices, and a new correctional facility with additional beds and enhanced mental health services. The courthouse will be funded through a 50% state grant. The County is providing its 50% match using borrowed funds that will be secured and payed back through the County’s available General Fund balance. The remaining facilities are subject to a voter-approved bond issue, currently planned for May 2023.

On March 1, 2022, the Board adopted Resolution of Necessity R2022-001 allowing the Board to declare it necessary and in the best interest of the public to acquire the 29.53-acre parcel for critical facilities. Based on that direction, the County began an eminent domain process prescribed by state statute that ensures fair-market compensation to the property owner.

“This decision is a result of a multi-year planning process and will ensure we meet the timeline required to leverage millions of dollars in matching funds from the State of Oregon for new justice facilities,” shared Board of Commissioner Chair Nancy Wyse. “While a negotiated sale would be ideal, the Board of Commissioners believe this is a fair offer to the current owner based on independent appraisal.”

The last and best offer is a legal requirement that must be met before eminent domain proceedings can begin. This offer is designed to both allow the county to extend a fair and just offer of compensation and to assure the property owner that the county is prepared to pay fair market value for the property. If, after 40 days from receiving the offer, the property owner has not agreed to the price, the County may then file for eminent domain in court.

Construction of the new courthouse will be the first project on the new campus. Design work is scheduled to begin in late summer 2022. The Board of Commissioners has maintained a commitment to the preservation of the historic courthouse, and a community-based committee is tasked with developing repurposing options for the Board’s consideration.

The new campus will support multiple County services, including law enforcement and community response. Sheriff Jef Van Arsdall is the co-chair of the JSIP planning process.

“From community surveys and our own data, we know that mental health treatment, crime, and accountability in the justice system are top priorities for Benton County,” said Sheriff Van Arsdall. “We all want safe and healthy communities, and it’s important that we do it in a way that reflects our values and makes wise use of limited operational funds. We expect that this new campus will support cross-agency efficiencies, improve emergency response, and ensure that criminal offenders are both held accountable and provided with opportunities to get treatment for issues they may be facing, including mental health or addiction. This project is a game-changer for Benton County, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”