A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council endorses Benton jail, justice bonds

Written March 9th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

The back of the Benton County Jail and courthouse on a rainy day last April.

Benton County is making a push for a $110 million bond issue for a new jail and criminal justice center. Paying off the bonds would raise property taxes for up to 31 years.

On Wednesday the Albany City Council voted 5-0 to endorse the measure. Councilwoman Matilda Novak, the only member to live in Benton County, worried about the extra expense on taxpayers but voted “yes” with the rest. (Councilman Ray Kopczynski was absent.)

The proposal will be on the ballot in the primary election that ends May 17. The ballot says the bonds would be paid off over no more than 31 years.

The county estimates the tax rate needed to pay off the bonds to be 55 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. This, the county notes, would raise the tax bill of the median home assessed at $258,956 by $142 per year.

Assessed values vary greatly everywhere in the county, including North Albany. In the Benton Woods neighborhood, tax records show assessed values of around $250,000. In some of the newer residential subdivisions south of Gibson Hill Road, a random spot check found some assessed values above $400,000.

The county has planned to build the new jail and justice center on a northeast Corvallis site off Highway 20. It has taken the property via eminent domain, a process in which the purchase price is determined in court. Unless there’s a settlement, a trial is scheduled in 2024.

The project to be funded by the bonds calls for a jail for up to 120 inmates, a sheriff’s office and emergency operations center, a facility to provide mental health treatment, and a center to run programs to help the homeless.

On the same site, but not funded by the bonds, the county also plans to build a courthouse and district attorney’s office that’s expected to cost around $50 million. For the courthouse the county expects a state grant covering half the expense and to borrow the rest.

Benton County has been working on all this since 2018, three years after voters rejected a $20 million bond issue to build just a new jail.

On Wednesday, the Albany council endorsed the current proposal after hearing from Benton County Commissioner Nancy Wyse. You can watch and listen to her presentation on YouTube here.

The issue was not on the agenda, and there was no one else to speak to the council about it. Whether a council endorsement makes any difference on bond elections, that is something nobody knows. (hh)

As seen on YouTube, Benton Commissioner Nancy Wyse talks to the Albany council on March 8.

36 responses to “Council endorses Benton jail, justice bonds”

  1. hj.anony1 says:

    Vote NO.

  2. George Kurtz says:

    Most bond issues are scheduled for 20 years or less . This one because of it’s enormous size is scheduled for 31 years so that annual payments will seem more affordable Many of those proposing this issue will not be alive when the last payment is made also considering the Albany Council approval the same could be said for them. It could be designed to be an adequate but not the biggest and best and paid for in 20 years when at least a few would still be alive .

  3. Bob Woods says:

    Vote YES or provide a room to house a prisoner.

    Good grief folks, jails cost real money. Or offer a room to house prisoners.


    • michael priest says:


  4. Anony Mouse says:

    It warms my heart that the Albany councilors endorse the power to forcibly take private property through eminent domain.

    Eminent domain is an act of force. This is not a voluntary sale where the owner accepts the government’s offer of “just compensation.”

    Involuntary takings of private property shouldn’t scare residents. The city council knows what your property is worth and its best use/purpose.

    So smile, get in line, bow your head, and vote yes. Resistance is futile.

    • michael priest says:


  5. CHEZZ says:

    Too much $$. Nice area for affordable housing.

  6. Jack Burright says:

    A big no for me

  7. Hartman says:

    This is GREAT News, indeed. The Albany City Council, fresh off the depletion of the CARA grant monies while simultaneously failing to fix Albany’s sagging infrastructure (street repairs specifically) have shown the strength of character and courage to vote “Aye” on other Counties spending money. One supposes we will soon see the Corvallis City Council voting in favor of some Albany plan to raise taxes and STILL not repair the roads. It’s like a mutual admiration society.

  8. Rich Kellum says:

    Question: if APD arrests someone at the IGA for shoplifting and assault, where is the prisoner taken, Albany, or Corvallis? If Corvallis, North Albany ;should help pay for the jail….

  9. Carolee Gascoigne says:

    Inflation is killing folks. Just going in a grocery store can cause sticker shock
    increasing property taxes like this defeats the goal of “affordable housing”
    Enough is ENOUGH

  10. Cap B. says:

    Are they going to do some earthquake retro-fitting on the old, historic Benton County Courthouse and repurpose it?

  11. Richard Vannice says:

    Rich Kellum – FYI N. Albany is in Benton County and residence there do have a vote.
    My question is this = If the levy passes and the facility is built will there be adequate personnel to staff the jail or will this be another Multinomah County elephant – a building with no one to staff it?
    Another question I have is = Is that $142 dollars a year subject to the 3% yearly increase without going to the voters? That would be compounded annually.
    Too many questions that haven’t been addressed.
    They have my big NO vote.
    I find it interesting that Jack Burright says no = that’s a name with a long history in law enforcement. Maybe he should be listened to.

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Richard, that Is why I said ” if Corvallis then North Albany should pay. ” If they are using the jail then they should also help pay for it. seems only just

      • Hasso Hering says:

        Sorry, but this makes no sense. Jails are a county function that every taxpayer in a county helps pay for regardless of whether “they are using” it. The underlying point, which I think prompted this back and forth, is that four of the five council members who endorsed this county tax measure do not live in the county and don’t have to worry about what it costs.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          I believe your most pertinent comment was: “Whether a council endorsement makes any difference on bond elections, that is something nobody knows.”

  12. Sharon Konopa says:

    Benton County taxpayers have underfunded jail beds for several decades and have not kept up with the demand. Linn County taxpayers pay for their larger jail facility and operations located in Albany. North Albany residents do not pay for Linn County’s jail or operations, which holds four times more than Benton.
    This is long overdue for Benton County to expand their jail and facilities. I don’t live in Benton County, but my taxes have been paying for Linn County’s jail and operations.
    I understand the hardship of paying higher taxes and it is a tough choice. But the people to blame here are voters in the past who have defeated several jail measures the past 20 years. Because now the costs are higher and without adequate jail bed space crime rises.
    Also in my opinion, the blame should be on our state leaders for not funding more state prison beds and mental health beds, which would lessen the demand on county jails and local taxpayers pockets. Instead the state and feds pour millions and millions into enabling homelessness, year after year, yet turn their heads away from what actually reduces crime.

    • Cap B. says:

      Please explain how you think the feds and state enable homelessness? Our whole extremely corporate society that rewards the richest people and then lets them off the hook on paying their share of Social Security taxes and all other taxes makes people homeless. Also, we don’t have a sales tax in Oregon, and income tax paid mainly by the poor working class does not provide enough money to run our police, fire, schools, water systems, etc. And property taxes are about as high as they can get and more people will soon start losing their property due to unpaid taxes. We are 50th in the states in rehab facilities for drug abuse. We don’t have the money to do anything about it? And only 3 areas/counties try to solve the problems of the poor…Multnomah (and neighboring counties), and Lane and Benton.

    • Abe Cee says:

      As seems to be the case with Democrat initiatives, just decriminalize everything then you don’t need police or jails.

    • PoC says:

      2022 Benton County property taxes median $2649 are higher than Linn County median $1899. Benton County residents are already paying a higher percentage of their income. (Please allow this link – shows data) https://www.tax-rates.org/oregon/benton_county_property_tax#:~:text=Benton%20County%20collects%2C%20on%20average,market%20value%20as%20property%20tax.

      Benton County voted down the $20M for new jail in 2015; now they want to add courthouse + DA offices for new total of $110M.

  13. Bill Kapaun says:

    Just maybe if they made incarceration more unpleasant, there wouldn’t be as severe of a need for larger corrections facilities. Homeless during the Winter or jail? Jail doesn’t sound so bad if you’re cold, wet & shivering.

    We simply need to go back to a modified chain gang system. It teaches structure and responsibility.

    When you see homeless people sleeping during the day, it begs the question- What are they doing at night?

  14. Anony Mouse says:

    Such nonsense and deceit.

    For many years the Benton Sheriff’s Office has CONTRACTED with Linn, Lincoln, Wasco, and Yamhill counties for rental beds.

    The Benton County Jail Bed Rental Program is paid for through a public option levy. It was first approved by voters in 2000. It was renewed again in 2021. The cost of this rental program to Benton County taxpayers is about $1 million per year.

    So, please, stifle the victim attitude that Linn County taxpayers are being burdened by Benton inmates. Linn County is compensated nicely for their rental service.

    And as long as Linn County is amenable to accepting cash from Benton County, what incentive do Benton County taxpayers have to approve an enormous bond measure? None.

    If I lived in North Albany I’d be perfectly happy to keep sending Benton County inmates to the Linn County profit-making jail hotel.

    There’s very little incentive to vote Yes on the bond measure given these facts.

  15. michael w priest says:


    • P. Richner says:

      The Democrat-Herald inadvertently (I presume) stated the bond was for $110 billion, rather than $110 million. That garnered a smile.

      I suggest that the the bond be rewritten into three separate parts. One for increased jail capacity, one for homelessness and mental health, and one for a new courthouse. Doing so would help clarify the separate issues for voters to consider. It would also clarify for the Benton County Commissioners a better appreciation for the willingness of the people to pay for each.

    • MarK says:

      I thought Hasso was going to stop allowing links to be added to comments.

  16. Matthew Calhoun says:

    This blog’s 20 regular commenters never disappoint with impressive levels of hypocrisy and ignorance; entertainment at its finest.

  17. Brian Cox says:

    Total cost for Justice Center is 184 million. Counties officials want the taxpayers to foot the rest, 110 million. Folks, the County Commissioner’s have already allocated 74 million for the Center! That 74 million would have gone along way to address the mental illness crisis. And yes , the 142 dollars a year ( for 30 years ) will grow by 3% as all the other Bonds, Levy’s, 911 Emergency Service Dist and other items on your property tax bill. We didn’t get to vote on the 74 million already spent, but we get a chance this May to vote this monstrosity, down.

  18. Brian Cox says:

    Total cost for Justice Center is 184 million. Counties officials want the taxpayers to foot the rest, 110 million. Folks, the County Commissioner’s have already allocated 74 million for the Center!

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