Benton & Franklin counties: Benton County wraps admin project, while Franklin eyes several smaller projects

Benton County, home to nearly 209,300 people in 2021, is wrapping up construction of a new administration building at its justice center campus in Kennewick.

The administration building is the largest undertaking by either Benton or Franklin county in 2021.

Franklin County, with a population just 500 people shy of the 100,000 mark, has several small projects but nothing major on its docket, said Keith Johnson administrator.

It reconfigured offices housing the county assessor and human resources office in the basement of the courthouse and is working on electrical system upgrades at the courthouse and county-owned HAPO Center.

“We are considering using American Rescue Plan Act funds for some of these projects,” Johnson said.

Across the river, Benton County’s $13.6-plus million new administration building will provide a new Tri-City base for administrators. The county maintains offices in Kennewick and at the county courthouse in Prosser, which remains the seat of government.

Administrators will begin moving in October 2021, freeing up space at the existing justice center, 7122 W. Okanogan Place, for court-related operations. The existing justice center has metal detectors and secured entrances to protect judges. The new building offers easier public access.

Banlin Construction LLC of Kennewick was the general contractor. The project was amended during the pandemic to provide additional space for workers.

Benton County also is moving ahead with plans to convert the 170-acre county-owned fairground site in east Kennewick into a year-round event destination. It previously updated buildings and some infrastructure. The next step is to evaluate the entire property.

In September, Benton County’s three-person board of commissioners voted unanimously to award a $236,500 contract with C.H. Johnson Consulting of Chicago and subcontractor MIG of Denver in September to create a master plan.

Benton County also is stepping in to lead a longstanding and sometimes confusing effort to establish a behavioral health recovery facility in the Tri-Cities, which is the only community of size in Washington that lacks one.

It is pursuing a $1.6 million deal to buy the former Kennewick General Hospital from LifePoint Health, a role formerly held by the Kennewick Public Hospital District. It secured $2.7 million from the state Department of Commerce for architectural and engineering work.

It will cost an estimated $20 million to repurpose the old hospital on Auburn Street. LifePoint, parent to Trios Health, will vacate the old hospital when its birthing unit moves to new quarters at Trios Southridge Hospital.

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