Difficulties in finding a site for a proposed regional juvenile detention center may cause Douglas County to open the center later than hoped, county officials said Wednesday night.
"We don't want to choose the wrong site, and then find out halfway through construction that we made that choice," said County Administrator Chris McKenzie. "We really have to be prudent."
The county is trying to pick a site for the proposed 14-bed, 9,100-square-foot detention center. The state is mandating that juvenile offenders no longer be jailed with adults by Jan. 1, 1993.
Douglas County already complies with that mandate. The county logged 56,000 miles last year transporting its juvenile offenders to other juvenile detention centers in Kansas. Most of the trips were to a detention center in Hutchinson.
However, most of the other 17 counties that make up the northeast region to be served by the Douglas County center are not in compliance with the law. McKenzie said the center would help the other counties comply with the state mandate, but that Douglas County will not be rushed to build it.
COMMISSIONER Mark Buhler said the center may not be opened in time to meet the state's mandate deadline.
"I'm not sure we're going to make that deadline, and if we build something, we won't make the deadline," he said.
Earlier this year, the county was considering the Allen Press building, 1041 N.H., as a potential site. The building remains a viable site, the commissioners said, but no formal meetings on the transaction have been held since June 4.
The deal is snagged because the Lawrence City Commission has indicated it wants an updated appraisal on the Allen property. The city is interested in purchasing the old A&P grocery store, 1040 Mass., which Allen also owns. The current asking price for the all Allen property in the area is $1.75 million, including Allen Press' cost of $896,180.
The commissioners said they were looking for property close to the Judicial and Law Enforcement building and a major highway, along with having the right services, such as utilities.
COMMISSION Chairman Louie McElhaney said he has narrowed his choices to two sites. Buhler said he considered three or four places viable. The commissioners said they continue to receive recommendations from the public, but that some suggestions are eliminated because of price or location.
McKenzie said the detention center now is the county's top priority. McElhaney said he wants to make a decision "as soon as possible," but no timeframe was given for the site selection.