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Oregon shelter fights relocation plans

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 courthouse. State lawmakers kicked in $2 million 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 the shelter 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.