County could pay ‘fair share’ for NORCOR

March 23, 2011

Wasco County's loss may be Hood River County's gain when it comes to funding the North Oregon Correctional Facility, according to an update given to the Hood River County Commission Monday night.

Jim Weed, NORCOR administrator, updated the board on the prison's current funding during the work session before its regular meeting.

Weed said the prison is currently operating at its minimum staffing level with 51 employees and said he can't cut any more without jeopardizing the safety of employees.

"In good judgment I can't do that," he said.

In the hopes of resolving some of its budget issues, the prison is considering shifting to a five-year rolling average of bed use to know how much the four counties which use the facility should be paying.

Currently Wasco County pays for 50 beds, Hood River 40 and Sherman and Gilliam five each.

However, under the rolling average, Wasco would likely be paying more and Hood River County around $140,000 less.

"In the 10 years I've been there, we've never used all 40 of our beds," said Hood River county commission chairman Ron Rivers, who sits on the NORCOR board.

The hope is that the five-year rolling average would give the jail a more sustainable funding model, have each of the counties paying their fare share for its operating costs, and then be able to lease out leftover bed space to programs that need it and could pay for it.

"What it comes down to is that I've cut down at NORCOR in every way humanly possible," Weed said.

The NORCOR board took up the idea at its most recent meeting, but Rivers said the meeting was under continuance to due to lack of representation from Wasco county.

"The other three counties there bought into it," Rivers said.

Other items from the Monday's meeting included:

The county declined to participate in the Mt. Hood Area Commission on Transportation for the time being. The proposed commission includes communities from east Clackamas County, such as Sandy and Boring, east Multnomah County from Corbett to the Hood River County line and Hood River County.

The commission would provide the three counties with one voice in addressing issues with ODOT and was primarily conceived to give rural and unincorporated areas of Clackamas County more muscle in taking transportation matter with ODOT.

The county commission was divided on the matter, feeling that in some ways the county had some of the similar issues of the other communities involved, but felt that it also had much in common with Eastern Oregon counties in the Lower John Day Transportation Commission.

They also felt that the commission may not be able to properly address, or give attention to, the needs of Hood River County.

The commissioners were willing to consider joining the group in the future, but not before they have fully explored their options.

"We'll keep looking at," commissioner Maui Myer said. "What's the rush?"

• The History Museum of Hood River County Director Connie Nice and architect Bud Oringdulph presented an update for the museum's planned expansion.

Oringdulph presented an updated plan to the county commissioners which would involve reclaiming the interior courtyard in the building, as well as an area near the current entrance way to gain space, placing a gift shop in the current administrative office area and moving the administrative offices to the second floor.

Nice said the museum hopes to begin construction work shortly after Labor Day.

• The commission also received a final report on a proposed biomass boiler project at the administration building and county courthouse. It will take action on the report in the near future.

• The county also entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the City of White Salmon for building inspection services and approved a grant agreement with the Meyer Memorial Trust to serve as the grantee to the Hood River County Library District.

• The board of commissioners meets again April 18.

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