Demolition to start in February at Grant jail site

Jan. 9—EPHRATA — People driving by the site of the new Grant County Jail will start seeing the existing buildings coming down Feb. 13.

The jail will be built on the site of the old Ephrata Raceway, and the grandstands, ticket booth, concession stand and track are still in place. Grant County Central Services Director Tom Gaines said demolition of all of that will start next month. The contractor is Sellen Construction, Seattle.

While there hasn't been much visible work at the site, there's been work underway, Gaines said. Testing found asbestos and lead paint in some of the structures, and petroleum products in the pit area and on the racetrack. Crews have already removed hazardous materials from the buildings and the site, he said, preparatory to demolition.

"All the environmental hazards have been remedied," he said.

The racetrack has been closed for a few years, and over time became an illegal dumpsite; contractors have removed discarded tires, junked cars and other debris.

Gaines said some of the work will be dependent on the weather, and the timeline is a little uncertain as a result. Sellen Construction, the contractor, will take out all the buildings, fences and the dirt surface of the track, and then level the ground. Once that's done crews will install sewer and water lines and prepare the site for foundations. The goal, Gaines said, is to finish the demolition and site preparation and immediately begin construction.

"Once we start, we don't want to stop," he said.

County residents approved a one-tenth of 1% sales tax for law and justice projects, including the jail, in 2019. Grant County Commissioners approved the sale of up to $90 million in construction bonds for the project in July 2022.

County officials also are advertising for architectural proposals for a new Grant County morgue. Currently, the morgue is located in Samaritan Hospital, and the original plan was to include a new morgue in the new hospital. But the two sides couldn't come to agreement on a plan that was cost-effective for Grant County, and Gaines said county officials are working on a standalone facility.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at