Consultant hiring holds as decision anticipated

Friday, June 21, 2002

JUVENILE DETENTION

By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian

JACKSON, Mo. -- The Cape Girardeau County Commission put the brakes on a contract to hire a $61,000 juvenile detention center consultant until commissioners see a state ruling that could help them determine whether to build a new center and, if so, how much to spend.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said he should know about the ruling today, either by getting it in the mail or calling to find out what it says.

Circuit judges and local juvenile officials are pushing for a new juvenile center, but commissioners say the county can't afford a proposed $4.3 million, 38-bed center to be constructed on Progress Street in Cape Girardeau.

Commissioners have argued for a smaller center with about 20 beds and have even questioned whether a need exists to build a new center.

The Missouri Judicial Finance Commission was asked to decide if Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger counties pay enough money to fund juvenile operations. The circuit judges want more than the $365,000 typically budgeted for juvenile operations to finance a bigger bond issue for a new juvenile center.

Planning detention

The county commission agreed in May to hire Huskey & Associates, a Chicago consulting firm that specializes in juvenile detention planning. The commission was set to sign the contract at Thursday's meeting.

At the meeting's outset, Jones told the other commissioners that he'd heard that the finance commission, established to resolve budget disputes between counties and their respective circuit courts, had ruled favorably in some of the matters. After the meeting, Jones declined to elaborate.

"I really don't know until we get the ruling," Jones said. "One of the guys involved told me, very unofficially, it seems like we lost some and won some."

Circuit Judge John Grimm said Thursday he wouldn't speculate on the report and also planned to call the finance commission today.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Judicial Finance Commission said a decision has been reached and a letter was sent through certified mail Thursday, meaning it should be in commissioners' hands by today or early next week.

The spokeswoman said the letter does not become public until the involved parties receive copies and would not say how the commission had ruled.

Commissioner Larry Bock, who says he has not been shown a need for a new center, said a favorable ruling -- one that shows the county is paying enough for juvenile operations -- does not mean that a consultant is not needed.

"They're two different issues," he said. "The consultants are supposed to look in their crystal ball and project how things will be 10 years down the road. The commission is looking at finances and who has the authority to build county buildings."

He said that they're waiting on the ruling from the finance commission because they should know all the facts before making a decision.

"It's going to take some reading and digesting, I'm sure," he said. "We have to know everything before deciding whether the consultant is needed."

Bock said that he will not vote for a new center if it's solely based on the need for new detention rooms. He said the daily average number of juveniles at the center is four and there are currently 10 detention rooms at the center.

"I have not been shown a need for additional cells," he said. "That's not to say there's not more room needed for teaching space or something like that. I'm open, but just not if they're saying more cells."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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