County panel, consultant talk; no decision on study

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Cape Girardeau County commissioners talked by phone to a juvenile detention consultant on Monday in an effort to help resolve the controversy over whether to build a new juvenile center in the county.

But the commission stopped short of inking a contract with Chicago, Ill., juvenile justice consultant Bobbie Huskey. Commissioners said they want more time to study the matter.

Gerald Jones, presiding commissioner, said Huskey & Associates, if hired, could look at future space needs for juvenile detention, assess the condition of the existing juvenile detention and develop a 10-year master plan.

Jones said the study could cost $42,000.

Half of that would be paid with federal grant money from the state. The county would have to pay the other half.

Huskey originally had proposed a wide range of planning work that would have cost nearly $98,000.

Scaled-down study

But commissioners said that price was too high. Jones said Huskey is willing to do a more scaled-down study. Jones said the commissioners want a more detailed written explanation on the consulting work before they decide on hiring the firm.

Jones has said the commission, by state law, doesn't have to take bids for consulting work.

If Huskey is hired, the study could take months to complete, Jones said. As a result, it could be next year before county commissioners are ready to decide whether to build a new juvenile detention center, he said.

Jones is uncertain whether the commission will hire a consultant.

"I don't have a clue what we are going to do," he said.

Larry Bock, 1st District commissioner, said he doesn't mind the delay if a consultant can provide information that will help the commission make the right decision.

"If I am convinced the need is there then I want to do something about it," he said.

Bock said even hiring a consultant won't happen overnight.

"I think we could get that done in a month or two," he said.

Budget battle

But hiring a consultant, however, won't put an end to the budget battle between the commission and circuit judges over plans for a new juvenile center, Jones said.

Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger county commissions have appealed to the Missouri Judicial Finance Commission to settle the dispute on the amount and use of money for juvenile operations. That appeal is pending.

The judges and chief juvenile officer Randy Rhodes had pushed for construction of a 38-bed juvenile center. County commissioners argued for a smaller center with about 20 beds. Later, commissioners Joe Gambill and Bock questioned whether there was even a need to build a new center.

Gambill, the 2nd District commissioner, and Bock have suggested the existing 10-bed center might be expanded for less than it would cost to build a new center on nine acres of land west of South Kingshighway that the county purchased two years ago.

But Gambill said Monday that a 10-year master plan could help commissioners determine juvenile detention needs.

Huskey has submitted projected cost figures for various tasks, including $14,000 to develop a master plan.

"If we could get a master plan for $14,000 that would be a bargain," Gambill said.

The commissioners met with Circuit Judge John Grimm at 9 a.m. in the commission room at the Cape Girardeau County Administration Building. But commissioners couldn't reach Bobbie Huskey by phone.

She later called back from North Carolina where she had gone on business. By the time she called back more than an hour later, Grimm was back on the bench handling court business. He didn't participate in the conference call.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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