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Parking lot site will later have a building

Jackson County recently built a new parking lot on West Main Street on the site of a former church and across the street from the county clerk's office. I drive by there regularly and almost never see anyone parked there, except for what appears to be visitors to some of the neighbors on the edges of the lot. It is otherwise almost always empty. How much did the county pay to build that lot, and why did it build it in a place where there seems to be no demand?

— Jerry, Medford

The short answer to your question is that the parking lot project cost $431,549.39. While Average Joe or Joan Taxpayer — including the many Average Joes or Joans here at SYA International — might think that's a spendy pricetag, paving the site created the most utility with the lowest maintenance costs while the county banks the land for a future building, according to Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan.

He said the county originally bought the property at a greatly reduced price because of decreased land values at the time. Although there weren’t any immediate plans to develop the property, the county decided to save the land for potential future uses, which could include a new elections center, mental health facility, transition center or state court building. The county is required by state law to provide space for state courts.

"After the church and two old houses were razed, the pavement that was left was in very poor condition, and the entire lot was very unsightly," Jordan said.

Paving prices were low at the time, so the county decided a parking lot would provide the best utility until a future building is needed, while also providing protection for underground work that was done there, he said.

And people even do park there on occasion.

Before the land was purchased, the county leased parking from the church several times to provide additional parking during elections and to accommodate parking during meetings held in the Community Justice and Elections Building conference rooms, Jordan said.

Also, at about the same time that officials were considering what to do with the lot, the county opened its employee medical clinic on the corner of the Community Justice and Elections Building and anticipated inviting other organizations to participate — which would put additional strain on the existing parking in that vicinity, Jordan said.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.