What a real waste looks like

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board June 04, 2014 12:20 pm

Baker City’s recent debate about modest salary raises for a dozen or so employees, and questions raised during the primary election campaign about whether Baker County is holding on to too much cash at the end of the fiscal year, seem quaint in comparison to the financial debacle that’s been plaguing Multnomah County for a decade.

We’re referring to the infamous Wapato Jail in Oregon’s most populous county.

In a case of government ineptitude that surely surprises even cynics, Multnomah County spent $58 million to build a jail that has never housed an inmate.

And the county continues to shell out $300,000 per year to maintain the building.

The explanation for what seems inexplicable is that county officials overestimated the number of jail cells that would be needed.

We don’t mean to suggest that salary raises for city workers, or Baker County’s budgeting strategy, are topics unworthy of public discussion. Of course they are.

But as we debate these issues, we as taxpayers ought to feel better knowing that at least we’re not paying for an empty building.