Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey, the overseeing sheriff for the regional jail, is a planner. He likes to anticipate what might be needed 5 to 10 years from now.
At his behest, the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility (NORCOR) board created a dedicated reserve fund Feb. 28 that would be used as a savings account for things like a new roof, new cameras and new heat pumps.
The jail is 20 years old now, Lohrey said, and various systems are reaching the end of their useful life. But creating the fund is different from putting money in the fund. The jail board will wrestle with that question in its upcoming budget process.
Lohrey’s focus is the adult facility, and he had ballparked replacement figures for a new roof at $400,000, new phones at $50,000, 43 new heat pumps at $230,000, and 120 replacement cameras at $78,000.
That’s $758,000 in all, and doesn’t include replacing anything at the juvenile facility.
Water stains on ceiling tiles attest to roof leaks throughout the facility, Lohrey said. Two of the 43 heat pumps have already failed, and since parts are no longer available for them due to their age, plans are to cannibalize those two for parts to keep the others going in the meantime, he said.
The cameras still work, but are outdated and nearing the end of their life, he said as he pointed to one in a ceiling corner.
After former jail Administrator Bryan Brandenburg resigned last year, the board decided to appoint a sheriff to oversee the adult facility and a county juvenile director to oversee the juvenile facility. Wasco County Juvenile Director Molly Rogers oversees the juvenile facility.
Rogers said the jail created a “rainy day fund” years ago and literally at the next meeting “decided it was a rainy day and took it out.”
Tom McCoy, a Sherman County commissioner who sits on the jail board, said the creation of a reserve fund means the counties would have to increase their subsidies to the jail. That was why the fund was removed the last time it was created, he said.
The type of reserve fund the jail board created cannot be easily accessed. The jail has had a line item within its budget designated as “reserves,” but “we kind of used that as a place to balance the budget to be really honest,” Rogers said.
NORCOR has struggled financially over the years, with each of the four member counties—Wasco, Hood River, Sherman and Gilliam – variously having trouble making contributions. The jail gets about half its operating dollars from the four member counties, and makes up the rest with various contracts, including with the U.S. government to house immigration detainees and with Benton County to house pre-trial defendants.