Although state funding for construction and operation of juvenile detention centers would more than double under a bill approved Thursday by the Kansas House, officials say obstacles still remain before such a center can be built in Lawrence.
The House bill would bring to about $2 million the amount of annual funding available for juvenile detention centers statewide.
The bill, which now moves to the Senate, places funds from three sources the state lottery, court filing fees and driver's license reinstatement fees into a juvenile detention centers fund.
But Chris McKenzie, Douglas County administrator, said that despite the increase in state funding, roadblocks remain in getting a juvenile detention facility built in Lawrence.
LAWRENCE was among four cities in Kansas approved late last year by the state Advisory Commission on Juvenile Offender Programs as sites for regional juvenile detention centers. The local facility would serve a minimum of 13 counties in northeast Kansas, McKenzie said.
But because state funding is designated for both construction and operation of juvenile facilities statewide, the amount of new money available for construction could be diluted, McKenzie said.
And although the state already has said it would pay half the cost of bonds for juvenile detention center construction, that funding is only guaranteed on a year-to-year basis, he said.
"I wish they'd give us a 20-year commitment," he said.
Another hurdle is approval of an interlocal agreement for funding of the facilities by the counties scheduled to use the detention center, including Douglas County, McKenzie said.
"It still depends a lot on decisions made by individual counties, including ours," he said.
DAVE O'BRIEN, grants program administrator for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, also said that securing an interlocal agreement with other counties could be an obstacle for host counties such as Douglas County.
The state is under a federal mandate that says juvenile offenders cannot be housed in adult jails starting in 1992. O'Brien said the state also faces the potential of a court ordering the removal of juveniles from adult jails.
"There are a lot of liability issues holding kids in (adult) jail," he said, pointing to the possibility of juveniles being verbally, physically or sexually abused by adult inmates.
In 1989, 1,251 juveniles were held in adult jails statewide, only 271 of them for less than six hours, O'Brien said.
REP. JOHN Solbach, D-Lawrence, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that recommended the bill for approval to the House, said he hopes the additional funding provided in the bill will speed up the process.
"It's not humane or good public policy" to hold juvenile offenders with adult offenders, he said. "It's damaging both physically and psychologically to keep juveniles in (adult) jail. They need to be separated."