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Multnomah County to sell unused Wapato Facility to property company

Wapato Jail for sale (SBG photo) 

PORTLAND, Ore. – Multnomah County commissioners voted to sell the Wapato Facility Thursday - 13 years after it was completed.

For the majority of those 13 years, the facility has remained vacant.

Aside from film and TV productions, the massive 525-bed, tax-payer funded facility has been vacant since it was completed in 2004. But, the county is officially giving up the North Portland investment.

With a 4-to-1 vote, county commissioners are moving ahead with a sale to Kehoe Northwest Properties. They plan on selling the jail for $10.8 million.

The company beat out six other proposals to get to this point. The company plans to convert the property into a medical supply distribution center.

Appraisers valued the building at $8.5 million. That’s a small price tag compared to how much it cost to build the structure.

County voters originally approved a bond in 1996, worth $46 million to build Wapato.

It took eight years to complete, but based on county documents, it never fulfilled its role as a jail for a few reasons, one of which is the downturn in the Portland crime rate. Also, it was never budgeted corrections staff to run as a jail.

Since 2004, the facility has cost about $300,000 a year in upkeep.

Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Chair, admits Wapato has cost tax payers since it was completed.

“It is past time to end this debacle and get this property back on the tax rolls,” she said.

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith said she was disappointed that more wasn't done to open the jail up as a shelter, offering relief to the Homeless State of Emergency in Portland. The shelter idea faced many drawbacks, such as transportation to the jail's site, lack of nearby resources, and the estimated nearly $1 million price tag to convert it into a shelter.

The facility spans 18 acres in North Portland’s Rivergate Industrial Park. It’s more than 155,000 square feet.

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