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Archive for Friday, September 2, 1994

COUNTY READY FOR DETENTION CENTER COSTS

September 2, 1994

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When the Northeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center opens in December, Douglas County taxpayers aren't likely to face the kind of nasty financial surprises now confronting a western Kansas county.

Officials in Trego County announced this week that they had run out of funds to hold any more jury trials this year. Blame for the shortfall is being laid at the door of the Greater Western Kansas Juvenile Detention Center in WaKeeney, which opened last summer.

Trego County District Court officials say the cost of appointing attorneys to represent indigent juvenile offenders broke the court's budget.

But Craig Weinaug, Douglas County Administrator, says he's scratching his head over how the opening of the center could have such an impact on the court's budget.

``The cases are not caused by the center. The center's being caused by the cases,'' Weinaug said. ``I can't understand the connection unless they're being more aggressive in prosecuting cases.''

Although the cost of appointing attorneys to represent juveniles has jumped in Douglas County, Weinaug said the county keeps a handle on it by contracting with the seven members of a Juvenile Legal Services Panel. Those attorneys are paid a flat monthly rate of $1,450 to take appointments.

Last year, the county sweetened the budget for juvenile representation by adding money to increase the monthly contract rate and to add an attorney to the panel. Weinaug said the county's budget for the panel rose from about $102,000 last year to $126,000 this year.

Weinaug said taxpayers aren't likely to be blindsided by detention center expenses. Increased costs of the center were anticipated well in advance, he said.

Taxes due in December will include a levy of 0.792 mills for the center; the current county budget included a 1.027 mill levy for juvenile detention.

``The increased amount really showed up on the taxes last year,'' Weinaug said. ``We budgeted as if we already operated it.''

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