A new, permanent fixture will soon be part of the Deschutes County fairgrounds.

Ground was recently broken on a $1.6 million building for the Oregon State University Extension’s Deschutes office. The 5,188-square-foot building will go alongside the existing building, which was opened in 2003.

“The county fairgrounds, 4-H, OSU Extension are just such important components of rural living in Deschutes County,” Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson said after the Feb. 19 ceremony. “It’s kind of the hallmark of what people think of with a county, and so we were real supportive of it. We could tell they’d outgrown their current facility, and they have the ability to grow into this and continue their good programs.”

The new building will feature 80 seats of classroom space, as well as a teaching kitchen, said Candi Bothum, county leader for the extension service. An expansion of the extension demonstration garden is also planned.

It will serve programs like the county’s 4-H Youth Development, with the ability to split the class and conference area in two.

“It will allow us to do more instruction, larger workshops and better utilize our staff time,” Bothum said.

The extension and 4-H saved up about a third of the seed money, with up to $1 million coming from a loan it partnered with the county on, which will be paid back.

“We’ve been saving for almost 10 years to do it,” Bothum said.

The new building will also allow the extension to move more of its 23 employees into the office, though no new hires are expected, Bothum said.

“Some of them are here, some of them are at the fairgrounds in a variety of spots,” she said.

Horticulturist Amy Jo Detweiler has been forced to teach classes all over the area, currently at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend, because of the lack of room for her up to 70 students. She looks forward to moving the classes to Redmond.

“What will be nice is, it’s a tri-county program, having it in Redmond will make it more central for Jefferson and Crook counties,” she said.

The extension worked hard to keep the project as cost effective as possible, Henderson said during the ceremony.

“We did some preliminary drawings and had the contractor value engineer that,” he said before trading off digs with golden shovels. “When it came through, they came up with a budget that worked out for our budget.”

The county’s 4-H taxing district helped raise seed money to get the project going, Commissioner Tony DeBone said.

“I know that some of you grow the food and other people can the food and the 4-H’ers out here,” he said. “This is real exciting to be able to share that knowledge with the community and have some more elbow room to be able to have those classrooms full of people learning about the great work you do.”

The new building is an example of the partnership between entities in the county, Redmond Mayor George Endicott said.

“We’ve got Redmond, we’ve got Deschutes County, we’ve even got the state, through Oregon State,” he said. “All of the local forms of government came together to make this happen, I’m just glad that we got to be part of it.”

In addition to 4-H and horticulture, the extension office also offers programs dealing with forestry, family and community development and nutrition education.

The new building is expected to be completed by Aug. 30, about a month after the July 31-Aug. 4 Deschutes County Fair and Rodeo. The new building will be open during future fairs but Bothum said it won’t house any exhibits.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com