Court plan in Oregon would raze violence shelter

LA GRANDE, Ore. — A domestic violence shelter in Union County and its supporters in the community are fighting plans to raze the 16-year-old shelter so a new courthouse can be built in its place.

County officials have notified Shelter From the Storm that it must vacate a county-owned building that houses its Community Advocacy Center by Sept. 1 to make way for the new $3.1 million court building.

More than 130 people turned out last week to protest the plan, the La Grande Observer reported.

“Let’s let the commissioners know we want them to find a better spot,” co-organizer Sharon Evoy said on a megaphone before the demonstrators marched to the county commission office.

Completed in 1998, the shelter was built with $500,000 from a county grant, so the land and building remain county property.

The county is working under tight deadlines for the new court. State lawmakers kicked in $2 million for the courthouse but are requiring the county to have a general contractor in place by Oct 1.

The county has offered to allow Shelter From the Storm to use facilities currently used by the court free of charge. But shelter supporters say the space in the so-called Joseph Building is inadequate for the shelter’s needs, especially because it would be leaving a building constructed specifically for it.

“The county commission has declared the Joseph Building as unsafe for judges and juries. There is a sad irony that the commission now wants to move the shelter, and their clients who come from unsafe situations, into a building they have labeled as unsafe,” former County Commissioner John Lamoreau said.

The former commissioner does not deny the need for a new courthouse, but supporters say a new facility shouldn’t be built at the expense of the shelter’s building.

“The commission does not need to jeopardize the shelter in order to provide a new courthouse,” Lamoreau said. “There is room for both a new courthouse and keeping the shelter at its current location.”

Laura Morgan, fiscal manager for Shelter From the Storm, was pleased with the turnout from the community.

“They organized this,” she said. “Most of them are not employees or board members.”

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