On March 1, Benton County Commissioners unanimously approved the use of eminent domain as a means of obtaining the land they wanted to build the new court system. Now the commissioners have said they are offering $5.477 million for the 29.53 acres of land about a mile north of downtown – calling it their “last and best offer”.
That would equate to paying just over $185,470 per acre – just over the $75,000 per acre Earth watch found in Monroe. However, this is the area the county wants to build on after spending a year and a half considering many options.
Facilities that Benton County wants to build on this land include mental health services as well as a new courthouse, emergency operations center, sheriff’s offices, and a new correctional facility with several additional beds.
Currently, the courthouse has 50% of its funding coming from a state grant, with the county providing the remaining 50% through a “loan” that will be repaid through the General Fund.
The other facilities will be part of a mandatory measure voters are expected to see on their ballots in May 2023.
When the choice to declare eminent domain in order for these lands to be made, he began a series of state-mandated measures to ensure that the landowners were fairly compensated.
It all started with the county declaring that this specific piece of land is necessary and essential to the public interest. Now Benton County is at the point where they have made their “last and best” offer – an amount they consider a fair price. This statement will move the land discussion into the eminent domain process.
“This decision is the result of a multi-year planning process and will ensure that we meet the timeline required to raise millions of dollars in matching funds from the State of Oregon for new judicial facilities,” the president said. of the board of commissioners Nancy Wyse in a press. Release. “While a negotiated sale would be ideal, the Board of Commissioners believe this is a fair offer to the current owner based on an independent valuation.”
The owners have 40 days from receipt of the offer to accept or refuse it. If they accept the offer, things move forward. If they reject the offer, the county will begin an eminent domain filing in court.
The first building on the site when the land is sold will be a new courthouse. The aim is to start construction at the end of summer 2022, that is to say very soon.
The other four buildings and the prison will begin construction at a later date.
Benton County Sheriff Van Arsdall said, “We all want safe and healthy communities, and it’s important that we do so in a way that reflects our values and uses limited operational funds wisely. We expect this new campus to support inter-agency efficiencies, improve emergency response, and ensure that offenders are both held accountable and have the opportunity to seek treatment for issues they may be faced, including mental health or addiction.
The courthouse is a historic building and therefore will not be demolished. A committee was formed to find a new destination for the building.
If you would like to stay informed about the justice system improvement plan, you can sign up for updates here.
By Sally K Lehman