Topeka Douglas County officials were assured Thursday that the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services will fund a regional juvenile detention center to be built in the county.
The center is expected to cost $1.5 million and would house up to 16 juvenile offenders.
The county has been worried that the state wouldn't come up with 90 percent of the construction cost of the center, but speaking to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, SRS Secretary Donna Whiteman said she was reluctantly ready to move ahead with the regional juvenile centers "and hopefully finalizing them within the next 30 to 45 days."
However, later in the meeting, after Whiteman had left, Carolyn Risley Hill, SRS acting commissioner of youth and adult services, told local officials "contract revisions need to be made and we think we can have those out in two weeks."
Douglas County Commissioner Louie McElhaney told the committee the county would not continue with its plans to build a local juvenile center until SRS committed funding for the local center.
After hearing Hill's promise that action would be taken in two weeks, McElhaney said, "We want something in writing. We don't want the check in the mail. We want it in our hand."
Douglas County officials learned last week that Whiteman had ordered a freeze on funding for the juvenile centers. McElhaney and Chris McKenzie, county administrator, were in Topeka to get assurances that the county would receive funding.
County officials are trying to meet a federal deadline of Jan. 1, 1993, that prohibits juveniles from being placed in the same jails as adults.
An advisory panel has recommmended that regional juvenile centers be constructed in Lawrence, Garden City, Girard, WaKeeney and one county yet to be named.
The Legislature has approved $740,000 for the facilities through an increase in court case docket fees and drivers' license reinstatement fees. The Kansas Development Finance Authority will issue $8 million in bonds for the five centers. The bonds will be repaid through the docket fees and license reinstatement fees.
Whiteman told the panel her initial worry was whether there would be enough money in the fund to permit the agency to pay 90 percent of the construction costs.
"It appears there will be enough funds to do this and to move ahead on the project," Whiteman said.
Whiteman said she was reluctant to build the centers because her agency wants to begin moving toward community-based programs for juvenile offenders.
After the meeting, McElhaney said he was pleased with the statements by SRS officials.
"This is the first time that we have been assured, and I want to stress that, that the SRS is going to fund this," he said.