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Archive for Sunday, January 12, 1992

PROGRESS

January 12, 1992

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Douglas County finds itself at the midpoint of bringing the regional juvenile detention center to life in Lawrence.

County Administrator Chris McKenzie said the county is awaiting a signed contract from the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services before proceeding with the project. The contract will detail financing of the center's construction, in which the state covers 90 percent of the $1.5 million construction cost. Douglas County and the 17 other counties in the northeast Kansas region will split the remaining 10 percent of the cost.

McKENZIE SAID the state's delay, which also is slowing similar projects in Garden City, WaKeeney and Girard, likely means the center will not open Jan. 1, 1993, as originally planned.

"I am beginning to get less convinced that's going to be possible to do that," he said of meeting the opening date.

Until the state contract is signed, the county is waiting to hire Abend Singleton Associates, the consultants selected by the county last month to plan and design the center. The county is relying on the Westwood firm to help select a site for the center. Four sites, all in Lawrence's city limits, were picked by the county as candidates for the center.

HIRING a director to run the center is another county priority. McKenzie said 28 applications have been received, and the deadline isn't until Wednesday. Abend Singleton has advised the county to wait on much of the design and planning work until a director is hired.

The Jan. 1, 1993, target date comes from federal and state mandates that say juveniles cannot be housed in the same jail as adults. Douglas County already complies with that mandate by sending its juvenile offenders to the Hutchinson detention center. However, some of the other counties in the northeast region continue to house juvenile offenders with adult prisoners and need the regional center to comply with the mandate.

In a preliminary development schedule, Abend Singleton estimates it will take 15 months to pick a site, plan the center and build it. McKenzie said the time frame could change, but he won't know definite dates until SRS comes through with its contract.

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