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Archive for Thursday, September 18, 1997

COMMISSIONERS VOTE DOWN AGENCY MERGER

September 18, 1997

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Douglas County's community corrections department and Juvenile Detention Center will not merge administrations.

Douglas County commissioners Wednesday on a 2-1 vote declined the proposal to give the two departments one boss.

Commission Chair Mark Buhler supported the merger based on a smooth five-month trial and financial gain to the county, while Commissioner Dean Nieder opposed it, saying he'd recently heard enough bad scenarios to outweigh the good. Commissioner Tom Taul cast the deciding 'no' vote.

Following the vote, one county resident suggested the commissioners had missed a great opportunity.

"We have a possibility of making community corrections really live and have meaning," said Kansas University social work professor Forrest Swall, who is also a community corrections board member.

He said combining the two administrations would allow community corrections and juvenile services to act as one agency to help their clients, especially juveniles and families in need of long-term assistance.

"Community corrections is uniquely positioned to help with those type of things," he said. "This county is not likely to put up the amount of money it takes to get two really top-notch people in these positions."

The positions had been consolidated since May, when the directorship of community corrections became vacant. Pam Weigand, director of the Juvenile Detention Center, had filled both jobs during a trial period so county officials could review merging the administrative positions.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he suggested the trial and merger as a step to streamline local government. Until a community corrections director is found -- a process that could take several months, Weinaug said -- Weigand will continue to direct both offices.

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