Prison committee attends dedication and discusses future prisons
By Vera Westbrook
JUNCTION CITY – The road leading to the JC state hospital located on Department of Corrections (DOC) property off Hwy. 99 South in Junction City is now officially known as Dreas Way.
On Aug. 22, community members and state officials along with family and friends of Andrea Nicole Post attended a dedication ceremony on the corner of Milliron Road where Bonnie Kotz, Andrea’s grandmother, assisted with the unveiling of the memorial street sign.
Dreas Way is dedicated in memory of Andrea Nicole Post who passed away in a fatal car wreck on Aug. 3, 2011, near the intersection of Hwy. 99 and Hatton Lane after a motor home struck her vehicle. Post, 24, was a Pioneer Pacific College student about to graduate with a degree in criminal justice. Her goal was to work as a corrections officer at the JC prison.
“Every day for as long as this street is here, Andrea will be remembered,” Representative Val Hoyle said at the ceremony. “We are so grateful we can honor her too-short life in some way.”
Following the ceremony, members of the Southern Willamette Valley Prison Advisory Committee (PAC), who also attended the ceremony, held a meeting where Rep. Hoyle announced that a Junction City prison will not be on the state Legislature’s agenda for at least five years, based on recent legislation and prison population forecasts.
As the state’s House majority leader, Hoyle also attended the meeting to discuss legislative decisions that impact Junction City. She proudly announced the state’s decision to issue an $80 million bond in support of the JC state hospital and said, “It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have such a supportive community.”
Hoyle also said the state passed a public safety package that will change how the state spends money on public safety. Hoyle is currently supporting programs that address issues like substance abuse at the local level to ultimately reduce the state prison population and decrease the need for future prisons.
She also reported that community mental health funds were increased by 40 percent to help folks transition out of state hospitals into communities. School funding was also increased by a billion dollars.
Although the state doesn’t have plans to build a prison in JC in the near future, “When we build a prison, it will be here,” Hoyle said, referring to DOC property adjacent the state hospital site that’s slated for a future prison.
In the meantime, “We are looking at putting the ground to good use as we have water rights on the site,” said DOC administrator Doug Young, who also attended the dedication ceremony and the meeting.
He said the DOC aims to use the state asset to help the state by working with Food For Lane County to allow the organization to lease 80 acres to farm edible plants such as blueberries. The DOC will also be working with a local farmer to allow sheep to graze on the property.
Young also expects the traffic signal at Milliron Road to be working by late December.
State hospital administrator Jodie Jones also attended the ceremony and the meeting where she announced that Lane Transit District will place a bus stop at the hospital’s front door. She also reported that more than 850 folks attended the Aug. 15 state hospital job fair in Junction City, with almost 200 individuals being hired.
Jones said the state hospital also plans to hold a community forum in the future to assist neighbors with the transition of having a state hospital as a neighbor. Staff will be reaching out this fall to hold conversations with local residents.