Commissioners' Debate Over Juvenile Justice Center Heats Up

There's still a fight going on over how much to spend on a new Douglas County juvenile justice center and where to put it.

Douglas County Commissioner James Cavanaugh tried to change the minds of his colleagues Tuesday morning at a meeting, but it ended up being more of an argument than a discussion.

Cavanaugh had his work cut out for him. After a number of public meetings, commissioners had already voted five to two to move ahead with the plan. The commissioner presented his second proposal for an alternative plane anyway. His first proposal had a price tag of $50 million. The new one had an even bigger one.

"You go from a $50 million project that you proposed to a $120 million project, that's a lot of gap and don't know how you philosophy your way to a $70 million increase," board chairman Chris Rodgers said.

The proposal calls for a dormitory type setting for juvenile offender and would be located on two sites - one downtown and the other at the current youth center.

Others want a single location downtown, so Cavanaugh could be fighting an uphill battle. "It's harder than it should be, because this is cheaper, better and smarter and it allows the people to vote on it. And so all of those things are good public police. I think we're making some progress," Cavanaugh said.

Rodgers said Tuesday's hearing was just a courtesy to Commissioner Cavanaugh. "Now having it heard and having a vote to change it is a whole different thing. We had that last vote. The board's will was five to two, but as a courtesy I let him be heard," Rodgers said.

Cavanaugh said the argument is far from over.

Right now, the $120 million project is being delayed by the court. "It's not a done deal because the courts haven't ruled and won't until next year at the earliest. And so it's wide open and the proposal comes at that time when we can take a step back and consider better and cheaper alternatives," Cavanaugh said.

The county wants to take a building by eminent domain to build the center, but the building owner has until Jan. 1 to file written briefs on the matter.

In the meantime, there is a restraining order preventing the county from taking the building.


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