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Measure 2-140 fails in special election, meaning no new Benton Co. jail

Jail cell with bench and mattress.
Brian Bull
Inside a cell at the Benton County Jail, which was built in 1976. Many personnel including Sheriff Jef Vanarsdal say this facility was outdated the instant it opened, as it was originally designed as a temporary facility.

Benton County voters appear to have shot down a bond measure that would have generated $110 million towards a new jail, sheriff’s office, and homeless programs.

Measure 2-140 would have increased taxes to the tune of $142 a year for home owners with median property value. Advocates said it would replace an aging and obsolete county jail, and alleviate crowding issues at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

Jail entrance.
Brian Bull
Exterior and main entrance to the Benton County Jail in Corvallis.

Commissioner Xan Augerot campaigned hard for Measure 2-140. Talking to KLCC late Tuesday, she said she was upset with the election night outcome.

“The community has voted this down several times, and it’s difficult to try to convey to people how we are treating the least fortunate among us, when we insist on lodging people in a jail that was built as a temporary facility, that it doesn’t have the right space to treat people appropriately,” she said.

While upset at the measure’s apparent defeat, Augerot said plans to build a new courthouse and district attorney’s office for the county will go forward. Those facilities are being paid for separately from the funds that would have been generated by the levy.

“If nothing else, we will get a start on our plans and we own the land,” said Augerot. “So next time we won’t have to go out and conduct an extensive year-long process in terms of site search. We know where we’ll be. That does help.”

Critics of the measure included the Benton County GOP and the Corvallis Advocate newspaper. Some argued that the tax increase was too much during economic uncertainty.

Augerot acknowledged that voter concerns over economic uncertainty and hardship likely pushed the “no” vote. But she added this only means future efforts to fund a new jail could become more costly.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the returns showed 57% of voters rejecting Measure 2-140, with 42% in favor.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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