Aug. 20—LA GRANDE — A new public safety building may be in the future for Union County.
Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen told the Union County Board of Commissioners Wednesday, Aug. 18, that he wanted to have his office put out a request for proposals to get a design firm to come in and develop a conceptual plan for a new public safety building. The commissioners, ultimately, gave Bowen the green light to proceed.
The sheriff's office will now begin an exploratory process for determining how a new public safety building could be built. Bowen will later report the findings to the commissioners.
If a new structure is built, it might replace Union County's current law enforcement building which was built in 1979. The structure — which houses the Union County Sheriff's Office, the La Grande Police Department, the Union County Jail, the La Grande Police Department Dispatch Center and the Union County Emergency Operations Center — is too small to accommodate all the services it provides, Bowen told commissioners.
"We are like a family of five in a one-bedroom apartment," he said.
The lack-of-space issue in the building also applies to its Union County Jail, which Bowen said is among the smallest in the state.
He said it would be impossible to add to the current law enforcement building because of the way it is designed and where it is located.
"There is no way to go down, up or out," he said.
The firm making a successful bid for the architectural project will be responsible for developing a conceptual design for a public safety center that would house the Union County Sheriff's Office, the La Grande Police Department, the Union County Jail and Union County Parole and Probation, according to Bowen's proposed RFP.
Bowen told the commissioners he would also like the building to have a center where people experiencing mental health issues could be helped.
The firm chosen for the project would be required to get input from people with local criminal justice entities on their needs before creating architectural plans. The company would also be asked to make a cost estimate for the structure it creates a design for.
The deadline for "finalizing architectural plans" would be March 1, 2022.
The sheriff's office will issue its request for proposals in early September, and the deadline for submitting would be 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4.
"If we do not take the first step, we will not take any," Union County Commissioner Paul Anderes said.
Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.