Multnomah Co. commissioners approve sale of Wapato Jail at reduc - KPTV - FOX 12

Multnomah Co. commissioners approve sale of Wapato Jail at reduced price

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Wapato Jail (KPTV file image) Wapato Jail (KPTV file image)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners approved the sale of Wapato Jail in north Portland for $5 million dollars, months after an initial agreement to sell the property for $10.8 million.

The property is being purchased by developer Marty Kehoe of Kehoe Northwest Properties, LLC.

The county reached an agreement with Kehoe in November 2017. However, last month the developer came back with a counter-offer.

Wapato Jail is a 155,400-square-foot building on 18.24 acres of industrial land in the Rivergate Industrial Park.

It was built in 2004 as a minimum-security detention center after Multnomah County voters approved a $46 million bond measure for it in 1996. It never opened as a jail due to funding issues, and aside from being leased for film and TV projects, it has been unused since its completion.

County workers said $109 million has been spent on Wapato Jail, in total, with a cost of $300,000 a year to maintain it.

Commissioner Loretta Smith, the lone dissenting vote on the deal Thursday, had recently renewed a push to use the jail as a homeless shelter.

“The real key is, we had 88 people who died on our streets last year and for us not to open up a public facility to deal with this housing crisis, it is totally unconscionable for us to do this. It is political malpractice what we did here today,” Smith said.

Smith also voted against the sale in November 2017.

Other commissioners said it isn’t feasible to use the jail as a homeless shelter.

“There are many, many reasons why we have rejected using Wapato as a homeless shelter. It's too expensive, it's too far from services, there's no transportation, and the land use policies don't allow it,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.  

As part of the agreement approved Thursday, the county is insisting on non-refundable earnest money of $200,000 from Kehoe, in case the deal were to fall through again.

Kehoe plans to use the property as a medical supplies warehouse.

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