Barton County Commissioners approved a new contract with a juvenile detention center in Finney County, though it’s hoped the center won’t be needed, due to the distance from Barton County. One reason an alternative detention area is needed is because the juvenile section that was designed for the county jail taxpayers funded wasn’t designed correctly, commissioners were told.
Sheriff Greg Armstrong told commissioners that the agreement with the Finney County juvenile detention facility is needed in case the county’s primary facility, located in Hutchinson, were to be too full to take a local juvenile.
The Hutchinson facility, Bob Johnson Youth Shelter, is considerably closer than the Finney County facility, so there would be a great savings in transportation costs, by sticking with the closer unit, unless, of course, it is full at a time the county needs the space.
Then a secondary site needs to be open, and that requires having an agreement in place, it was noted.
Commissioner Kenny Schremmer recalled that when the county was working on its new jail, the plans included two juvenile holding facilities, supposedly designed so they would meet federal standards.
One of the problems with the old jail was that it did not include any areas where juvenile offenders could legally be held, because they have to be out of sight and sound of adults.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman acknowledged that the architectural firm, which has since gone out of business, that designed the jail failed in this effort, because the two holding facilities are not out of sound of the rest of the jail.
“The architect did a poor job on that,” Boeckman said, adding the contractor built the facility as it was designed, it simply was not designed correctly to meet federal standards. “The architect performed poorly in that part of the jail design.”
Armstrong concurred that a federal inspector has already stipulated that the local facility does not meet federal standards for juvenile detention.
However, he added, the area is still put to use as an over-flow holding area.
There is no way to make them appropriate for juveniles, though, the sheriff added. “Those will never make the grade.”