Oregon county puts unused jail on the market

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon’s largest county is looking to unload a jail in mint condition — having never housed a suspect or convict.

The Wapato Jail was built a decade ago at a cost of $58 million, and Multnomah County is spending more than $300,000 a year for maintenance, The Oregonian reported.

But assumptions about crime rates and other trends never panned out, and the county didn’t set aside money to open and staff the jail.

So it has sat vacant, except for short-term uses such as providing the set for productions as varied as the TV show “Grimm” and an ad for vacuum cleaners.

Alternative uses, such as a homeless shelter, didn’t work out. The state, which has expanded its own detention capacity in recent decades, decided it wouldn’t do for a state prison.

The county commissioners have long looked for ways to get out from under the cost.

“This board does not want to continue paying $300,000 a year to keep the water pipes from freezing,” county spokesman David Austin said in December.

On May 2, the county started accepting expressions of interest in buying the facility. The deadline for submitting them is Wednesday. County officials won’t say what kind of response they’ve gotten so far.

The jail was designed for 525 inmates.

It has 168,420 square feet on 18 acres in a North Portland industrial zone that abuts a wetlands area.

The most recent property assessments estimate a fair price for the property is $40 million.

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