The Clark County Council will utilize roughly $25.7 million in allocated or available American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to relocate or renovate buildings at its Vancouver campus, which will include the Clark County Jail.
During a meeting in August, the council unanimously approved the use of funds originating from the American Rescue Plan Act as part of an ongoing “space planning” project for buildings the county occupies. The requests feature a shuffling of departments to allow for others to move into county-owned buildings, and improvements to the county’s law and justice facilities to increase capacity.
Of the funds, $10 million from the county general fund will be used for architectural engineering costs for the jail as well as juvenile and work centers, Michelle Schuster, senior management analyst for the county, said at the meeting.
Architectural engineering costs tend to be about 7% to 10% of a construction project’s budget, Schuster said, with estimates at $100 million for the work planned.
That work will involve additional bed capacity in the jail as well as the juvenile and work centers, a remodel or replacement of a decommissioned section of the juvenile center that will be used for detention, a remodel of the current juvenile detention area to house adult inmates, and a phased remodeling of jail pods and common areas, according to an August presentation of the space planning project presented to the council.
Roughly $15.7 million was requested from available ARPA funds for relocation of the county family law annex and the children’s justice center. Leases on the properties which currently house those departments are expected to expire in May of 2024 and require a move.
Family law and the children’s justice center will be moved into the Clark County Public Service Center at 1300 Franklin St., with consolidation and relocation of existing departments planned to facilitate the move, according to the August presentation.
Schuster noted the county is currently undergoing a fiscal analysis on options for the relocation, which could adjust the amount needed.
Other requests in the space planning project that were approved included $230,000 for new furniture in the clerk’s office to meet fire code and Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, and repurposing $100,000 of ARPA funding for Clark County Public Health for new furniture in their community health center building.
Funding for the space planning project was secured in 2021, according to the August presentation. Part of the latest request was a carryover of the remainder from the $2 million awarded for the project. That funding was used for a comprehensive review of how departments occupied their facilities, a staff report stated.
Although the request asks for the funding in 2023, Schuster said portions of the project will likely be moved to subsequent years.
“Because we don’t know how much of it will actually be used up in the first year, we are asking for all of it in the first year, and then it will be carried forward,” Schuster said.
Though the approved funds are coming from multiple sources, they are the result of federal COVID-19 relief funds. Clark County Manager Kathleen Otto noted the money coming from the general fund are “revenue recovery funds” that initially came from ARPA.
Clark County Councilor Richard Rylander made a specific note of where the funds were coming from.
“I’m comfortable, after the discussions and the explanations, that the money … appears to be put to good use, and is not coming out of the funds raised directly from taxpayers,” Rylander said.
As the funding relates to the jail, Councilor Julie Olson noted questions from the public on when the county is “actually going to do something” on the rehabilitation or replacement of the facility.
“It is a lot of money (but) it is just still a down payment on … what’s going to be necessary to get our law and justice facilities up to par,” Olson said.
Under Otto’s direction, Olson feels the funds “will not be spent without a lot of prudence and oversight.”
Councilor Gary Medvigy said the county has not seen much in the way of a capital facilities improvement plan until Otto “dug in.”
“We are not wasting money. We have deferred capital investments that we need to make, and primarily right at the head of that list right now is in our justice realm, and the jail first and foremost,” Medvigy said.
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