Scam odor surrounds new Multnomah County courthouse
The old Multnomah County Courthouse is going to fall down when the next big earthquake hits, and the county commissioners have talked themselves blue in the face for decades about replacing it. But they found money only for a new jail instead -- a new jail that they built, stocked with lovely art, and immediately abandoned before ever using it.
There have been some odd turns in the courthouse saga. A few years ago, the county took millions of dollars of "urban renewal" slush money from the Portland Development Commission, supposedly to redo the off ramps on the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge, supposedly to make way for a supposed new courthouse. The PDC money had been borrowed at relatively high interest rates, and as far as we know, the county still has it safely invested in accounts that pay far less interest. This is their way of helping city taxpayers get their money over to Jamie Dimon.
But we digress. This week, all of a sudden, they're talking new courthouse again, and now they've paid for a study touting the central eastside industrial district as a good place to put it. That crazy idea sounds like a nonstarter to us; surely any new courthouse would be built on the west side of the river. There's also some talk in there about renovating the old courthouse, but that obvious alternative has never gained any traction in all the years that the issue has been discussed.
But most alarmingly, the new talk includes much discussion of a "public-private partnership." That usually means that a developer has probably already made a pitch or two in some backroom somewhere, and it's time for the charade of public discussion to begin. No doubt big bucks are to be made by putting a tower full of condos or apartments on top of the new courthouse. And the consultants are egging the county on to a rush timeline:
The main step for saving time in the project planning is the preplanning or programing process. With the early selection of a developer, the public agency can begin detailed project planning, programming, and scoping with the developer team much earlier in the project schedule, and in turn, shorten the duration to complete the total project.
This abbreviated process provides the selection of the private group based on experience, team members, developments fees, and/or lease back cost ratios for the delivery of a project. This process would provide a general description of the project goals and objectives. Rough budget numbers would be established with desired timelines for completion. All aspects of the project would be completed with the developer, including establishing all deliverables for the project.
Once a selection process is complete, the developer will manage all aspects of the project from funding, site selection, programming, functionality of design, quality, and management of the project budget. The developer would work with the county team to determine the building design solutions. They would then present a preliminary budget and features to the county so the county can determine if it is what they require for their project and can be afforded.
The Latest Kafoury is the county face card on this one. She, and it, bear careful watching.