Budget Update Provided on Courthouse Project, Timeline Extended

The County’s design plans for a Benton County Courthouse and District Attorney’s office located at the new Community Safety and Justice Campus have been delayed, requiring changes in cost estimates and the anticipated start of construction. The Benton County Commissioners received a report on the project during the July 5 Board of Commissioners meeting at the Kalapuya Building in Corvallis.

“This update is to offer a transparent opportunity for discussion of the nature of the delay and expected costs,” shared Chief Financial Officer, Rick Crager. “Now that the County’s bond sale is complete and the legislative session has adjourned, we have a clear picture of our resources and the budget for this project. We will need to continue discussions with the Oregon Justice Department staff to bring the design into alignment with required standards and the funds available.”

Last March, the estimated cost was $50 million for a 35,682-square-foot courthouse. The courthouse is operated by the State of Oregon. Half of the cost would be funded through an Oregon Justice Department matching grant and half funded through County borrowing. 

In addition, approximately 9,000 square feet for the County operated District Attorney’s Office was originally planned to be funded through County borrowing of $8 million. 

Today’s report to the Board of Commissioners provides updated costs and options to move forward.

The original cost estimate that included the 35,682 square feet identified for the courts and 9,000 square feet for the District Attorney’s office. To meet budget requirements, the design for the District Attorney’s office has been reduced from 9,000 to 8,000 square feet. OJD representatives have requested a design with 37,500 square feet, which is the programmatic square footage initially developed by the architect and OJD, increasing costs by an estimated $4.5 million.

County staff recommended proceeding with the project and continuing negotiations with OJD representatives to reduce the square footage for the courts and bring costs in alignment with available funds. The Board of Commissioners supported that option. With this decision, total direct construction costs would be managed to meet the original $50 million project estimate, but the construction timeline will shift to a Spring 2024 start date.

The historic Benton County Courthouse, built in 1888, is the oldest courthouse in Oregon currently being used for its original and intended purpose. Though structurally sound, the 27,000-square-foot building would not withstand a major earthquake. 

According to the Public Works Director and Project Manager, Gary Stockhoff, it’s important to continue to move the project forward.

“Our financial planning for this project is sound and we have been very thoughtful about contingency funding with input from OTAK, our contracted project manager,” shared Stockhoff. “Continuing on this path will provide $31.2 million of state resources for a new courthouse which would not be available if we chose to renovate an existing facility. We are committed to working closely with Oregon Justice Department staff to complete the new courthouse that meets the needs of modern courthouse operations including ADA compliance, security features, and separate circulation paths for the public, staff, and in-custody defendants, as well as a jury assembly area.”