WILMINGTON — Commissioners didn’t dismiss the idea to build a juvenile detention center, but affordability has been questioned and a committee formed.
The lack of a nearby juvenile facility has been a problem for decades, officials said at a Wednesday commissioners session. But it is also a question of money, agreed Clinton County commissioners and the county juvenile court judge.
Clinton County Commissioners President Patrick Haley said when he was the local sheriff 30-some years ago, not having a juvenile facility was a problem and it continues to be a “cloud that hangs over those small counties.”
Yet, he said, “it is a dollars-and-cents issue” as well.
Haley’s comments followed a lengthier set of statements on the topic from Clinton County Commissioner Mike Curry, who indicated he had spoken with a commissioner from both Highland and Fayette counties. He also had talked with the director of the South Central Regional Detention Center in Ross County.
According to Curry, the Highland County commissioner he spoke with is not interested in having that county be a part of a new juvenile detention facility.
As previously reported, Clinton County Juvenile Court Judge Chad L. Carey was envisioning a new 24-bed facility that would house juveniles from Clinton, Fayette, Highland and Brown counties.
The detention center director in Ross County told Curry that the 36-bed facility there was built in 2004 and had a $6 million construction price tag.
The annual operating budget there is $1.63 million, Curry related. Staffing there includes 27 full-time employees and eight part-time workers.
Concerns about staffing costs are what Clinton County commissioners “ran into” when they looked at the possibility of a juvenile center in the early 2000s, recalled Curry, one of the commissioners at the time.
The prospective facility under consideration in the early 2000s was to be solely for Clinton County, said Curry. His recollection is that it was a proposed 12-bed structure, and the plans were to maybe rent out some beds.
While Carey was eyeing a possibility of a new center somewhere in the four-county area, he also was trying to get contracts for bed space closer to home. A Xenia facility will guarantee Clinton County two beds for juveniles for one year, the judge said Wednesday.
Curry said the planned committee’s goal will be to “come up with really good numbers” on the costs projected for construction and operations.
In addition to Clinton County commissioners entertaining thoughts of a juvenile center in the early 2000s, in fall 1995 then Ohio Gov. George Voinovich had a commitment to juvenile detention construction funds for Clinton County, according to a letter obtained from the Clinton County Juvenile Court office.
The 1995 letter, written by then Clinton County Juvenile Court Judge G. Allen Gano to the Clinton County commissioners, stated, “The regional project for Clinton County which has been tentatively recommended by DYS [state’s Department of Youth Services] to the Governor is for a 24-bed juvenile detention center for the counties of Clinton, Brown, Adams, Fayette and Highland at a total cost of $3 million.”
Under the proposal, the state would have paid $1.5 million, with an equal amount to be met by a local match from the five counties, according to the letter.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.