Full-service ‘Justice Center’ for East County may become a reality

Will citizens of outer East Portland and East Multnomah County finally get something more than its current one-room leaky courthouse? Your comments will count: Read about an upcoming forum you should attend on February 8 …

Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts has led a four-year effort to create a full-service Justice Center to serve the 200,000 citizens of East County.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
After years of wrangling ‚Äì and two “blue ribbon” committees’ recommendations ‚Äì building an East County facility to house courtrooms and other services is edging closer to becoming a reality.

“We’ve been at this for the past four years,” Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts tells us, as we visit the proposed site on SE Stark Street in Gresham. “Actually, the real movement, including our funding plan ‚Äì selling excess county property to pay for it ‚Äì has been going for the past three and a half years.”

More than meeting the mandate
Roberts reminded us that Multnomah County, by Oregon State law, is mandated to maintain a courthouse in Gresham. But, the current facility is a one-room courthouse on Powell Blvd. “It’s old; it leaks when it rains. It is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It may meet the requirement of the state law, but it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of the people of East County,” Roberts said.

The commissioner added, “We’re looking to serve over the over 200,000 people from 122nd Avenue out to the eastern edge of the county.”

Will give Rockwood an economic boost
The land for the Justice Center that’s been recommended, Roberts explained, is in Rockwood, at the former site of the Fred Meyer Home & Garden Store on SE Stark Street. “In addition to the convenience of providing county services, there is a strong indication that building this facility here will lower crime in the area. This is the kind of project the spurs other kinds of economic development in this area.”

Roberts continued, “We have a unique way of paying for it. This project won’t put the county into debt. We’ll have a building already paid for, that will give the community what it needs, in many ways.”

Commissioners vote for “full service” facility
On February 1, the County Commissioners agreed, in a unanimous vote, on the “full service” concept for an East County facility.

As described, the new facilities will be more than a courthouse. The “full service” Justice Center will:

  • House a courthouse with four courtrooms, and the space to build two more if needed;
  • Allow the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office finally to vacate the mold-ridden, leaky Hansen Building in which it now operates;
  • House the District Attorney’s office, as well as satellite offices for county agencies.

“There’s also a good possibility that Gresham Police will have a station located in the building,” said Roberts.

Be heard on February 8
Although the Rockwood site has been proposed, and has considerable backing, whether it will be built there or somewhere else is still up in the air. While many support the proposed Rockwood site, others are pushing locate it in downtown Gresham.

To get more input from citizens, Roberts said that he — in partnership with the Centennial Neighborhood Association — will hold a public meeting to present information and receive comments on the East County Justice Center.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto will be on hand, as will be representatives from the County Chair’s office.

The meeting will take place February 8, 2007, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Parklane Christian Reformed Church, 16001 SE Main St., in Gresham.

“Please come, and let us know what you think,” Roberts urged.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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