County needs new juvenile jail now, official says

Yavapai County needs a new multi-million-dollar juvenile detention facility years earlier than officials anticipated.

County Director of Juvenile Court Services Gordon Glau told county supervisors during his budget meeting Tuesday that the juvenile jail exceeds its 39-bed capacity 71 percent of the time, and 15 percent of the time it houses more than 50 juveniles.

"We've got kids on the floor on a fairly regular basis," said Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Robert Brutinel, who handles the Prescott-area juvenile court.

The juvenile jail population has grown 35 percent since fiscal year 2000, Glau said.

"It's sad, because they're kids," Board of Supervisors Chair Lorna Street said. "Criminals are getting younger and younger and younger."

Glau is recommending a new 80-bed facility that would cost roughly $6 million to $8 million.

County Supervisor Gheral Brownlow said it would be at least three or four years before the county could construct a new detention facility, but Glau said it needs to be ready to house juveniles within two years.

To meet that timeline, the county would have to start planning and designing such a building almost immediately.

The county has added onto the existing 28-year-old Prescott facility two times, in 1991 and 1999, and has no room to expand it again, Glau said. When they added nine beds in 1999, juvenile justice authorities thought they wouldn't exceed capacity until 2004.

A new detention facility isn't in the county's five-year capital projects plan, either. The supervisors plan to talk more about the issue at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday when they have scheduled a discussion about capital improvement needs for the 2002/2003 budget year that begins July 1.

While the state government chipped in half the cost for the 1999 expansion, Glau said it's unlikely the state would help with the new facility.

That didn't surprise the supervisors. During their budget meetings with department heads this week, they already have repeatedly heard about state budget cuts that will cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, including cuts in the juvenile and adult probation departments.

The existing detention facility is located near the Yavapai Regional Medical Center, which has the first option to purchase it, County Administrator Jim Holst said.

Preliminary analysis has led officials to believe that it would cost less in the long run if the county builds one new facility in the Prescott tri-city area, instead of keeping the existing one and building a new smaller one in the Verde Valley, Glau said.

Officials briefly discussed possible sites Tuesday, including Pioneer Park on the northwest side of Prescott and a 185-acre parcel on the northeast side of Prescott that the county jointly owns with the City of Prescott.

The county also owns vacant property near the new fairgrounds northeast of Prescott Valley, but when the Fain family sold it to the county, the Fains included a clause that prohibits the county from using it for a jail facility. The same goes for the Town Centre property in Prescott Valley that the Fains sold to the county.

Could jail tax question come back to voters again?

Wondering where they will come up with approximately $7 million for a new jail to house underaged criminals, Yavapai County supervisors talked Tuesday about the possibility of using revenues from the existing county jail district sales tax.

Director of Juvenile Court Services Gordon Glau asked the supervisors if they would consider that option.

But voters would have to approve that use, since the original 1999 ballot question didn't say the money could go toward a juvenile facility, Board of Supervisors Attorney Dave Hunt said.

The current 20-year jail district sales tax is an eighth of a cent, and the county plans to increase it to a quarter-cent after 10 years. State law allows it to be as much as a quarter-cent.

Voters originally approved the jail district so the county could build a $16.6 million addition to the county jail for adults in Camp Verde.

It currently is under construction. It will add 240 new cells for 430 adult males, plus create 14 cells to accommodate 28 juveniles being charged with adult crimes so the county can stop sending such juveniles to the Maricopa County jail.

One reason the county is building the Camp Verde addition is to appease the U.S. Department of Justice, which cited several deficiencies with the county adult jail system. County officials have since corrected most of them.

County Supervisor Gheral Brownlow wondered out loud Tuesday if the Department of Justice will come after the county again because the juvenile jail is now overcrowded.

Glau said he doesn't think that will happen, but he noted that state officials have warned the county's juvenile justice system that it is out of compliance with a law requiring at least one juvenile detention officer for every 20 juveniles during sleeping hours.

He is asking county supervisors to appropriate $32,891 in next year's budget to hire the facility's first new officer in two years, because right now the detention facility has only two night officers.

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