A vacant tract in a North Lawrence industrial park was tabbed by the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday as the probable site for the Northeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
Commissioners approved a 90-day option to purchase a lot in the North Lawrence Industrial Subdivision across from the United Parcel Service office. The industrial park is about a block east of North Third Street on Industrial Lane, just south of the Kansas Turnpike. It will cost the county about $60,000 to buy the lot, which is about 3 acres, from the Lawrence Industrial Development Co., a for-profit company formed in 1948 to attract industry to Lawrence.
Russell Mosser serves as president of Lawrence Industrial Development Co., which has 79 stockholders and a seven-member board of directors. The other board members are Bill Barr, Richard Barber, Bob Georgeson, Kelvin Heck, Dolph Simons Jr. and Rusty Springer.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the county's action Wednesday night does not mean it has bought the property.
"We assume that there will be a lot of public discussion and at least one public hearing," he said.
Commissioners tentatively have scheduled a Sept. 30 public hearing to discuss the site selection. The county also will perform an elevation survey to see how the property is situated in the flood plain.
COMMISSIONER Louie McElhaney said he's not certain whether the county would reconsider its decision if the site meets harsh public reaction.
"Sooner or later, we've got to make a decision, and we've made this decision now to go this far," he said. "We've got to take it step by step from here on out. I would suspect that we're going to have some opposition no matter where it's picked."
Commission Chairman Mark Buhler said choosing a site was a tough job for commissioners.
"It is the ultimate situation where, given the choice, people would like it to be in your neighborhood, not mine," he said. "It is not perfect in every way, because it's somewhere where someone is going to be bothered by it. If it's in Douglas County, someone will be bothered."
Commissioner Mike Amyx said the site met several goals, including land acquisition and construction costs, accommodations for visiting family members and access to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, which is about two miles away.
"It's an adequate distance to the courthouse complex in that it's not too far," he said. "I think that we agree that this site meets a majority of those goals."
OTHER ADVANTAGES listed by commissioners include no existing structures on the site, which eliminates demolition costs; the presence of utilities, meaning no special assessments will be charged; and it is not immediately near any residential property. The site is several hundred feet west of North Seventh Street, a residential street that runs north and south through North Lawrence.
Buhler said the site was his only choice. McElhaney said his second choice was the Lawrence Livestock Sale Barn, 900 E. 11th. Amyx said his runner-up site was a vacant lot east of Haskell Avenue near 24th Street.
Pam Weigand, detention center director, said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment had reviewed the feasibility of the chosen site and of several other sites. She added that Abend Singleton, the Westwood design consultants working on the center, had evaluated the site but did not make a recommendation about it to the county.
PLANS CALL for the center to contain 9,100 square feet and hold 14 beds. The center will be designed so it can be expanded by seven more beds. The state will issue bonds to cover 90 percent of the $1.5 million construction cost.
Weigand said Tuesday that the one-story center probably would not open until January 1994. The state picked Douglas County in 1990 as a host county for the regional center to comply with a federal mandate that juvenile offenders not be housed with adult prisoners.
Buhler said the center would offer "the look and the feel of an office building. . . . It's going to look better than some things over there and some things on that cul-de-sac (Industrial Lane). I think that it shows the importance of (North) Third Street to this community and the opportunity that lies there with redevelopment."
Weigand provided a list of 21 sites the county considered for the detention center. Buhler said some property owners likely were unaware commissioners were considering some sites.
THE OTHER sites considered were the Allen Press building, 1041 N.H.; Scotch Industries, 1026 Mass.; the former Kaw Valley School about 3 miles east of Lawrence; land between the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds and a nearby salvage yard; an industrial area on Lakeview Road; a former nursing home site at 205 N. Mich.; the old Kansas Construction building north of the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence; vacant land at 19th and Delaware; a vacant lot at 15th and Delaware between the Indian Center of Lawrence and Morton's Building Materials; three lots at East Hills Business Park; county property north of Franklin Cemetery, which is in East Hills but is not part of the business park; land in the Crossgate area of the Yankee Tank Sewer District; 10 acres in North Lawrence south of Shuck Implement Co.; the Lawrence Municipal Airport; and the former Jayhawk Trophy building in the 500 block of Wisconsin.