Juvenile hall at Tahoe will take time | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Juvenile hall at Tahoe will take time

Rick Chandler

Even though a host of public officials have voiced a need for a juvenile detention center at South Lake Tahoe, it’s beginning to look like grant funding for such a project will not be available until 2000 at the earliest.

But South Lake Tahoe Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury is among those who are hopeful that something can get done this year.

On Monday, a contingent from South Lake Tahoe – including Kingsbury and Fifth District Supervisor Dave Solaro – met with El Dorado County officials to discuss grant proposal strategies. The county had originally approached the Board of Supervisors with a grant proposal to improve the existing juvenile facility in Placerville, but Solaro pulled that item from the agenda – noting that Tahoe’s needs were not being considered.

So now county officials are putting their heads together to determine what needs should be met, and when.

“We’re all exploring what would be realistic,” said Kingsbury, who handles South Lake Tahoe’s juvenile court cases. “Right now, the feeling of the team seems to be that putting in a facility application for Placerville has a better chance of success.

“There are no environmental impact issues in Placerville, as there are in Tahoe with the TRPA.

“I remain unconvinced, however, that (a Tahoe facility) isn’t doable.”

The need for a juvenile detention center at South Shore has been apparent for some time. Currently, if a juvenile gets in trouble at South Lake Tahoe and needs to be incarcerated, it is necessary to transport the offender to Placerville.

But that can be a strain on the community. South Lake Tahoe must provide law enforcement personnel to transport the juvenile. And with their child in a facility 60 miles away, parents are often unable to participate in a variety of county rehabilitation programs.

Plus, a recent state juvenile justice report indicates that more than 40 percent of all El Dorado County juvenile arrests occur in South Lake Tahoe.

“Those statistics support my position,” Kingsbury said. “We’re in a position now where a juvenile might have two or three pending petitions before I can get them into custody.

“We’re a county that thrives on tourism. It’s critically important that we have a community that is perceived as safe and responsible.”

The county has acknowledged Tahoe’s need for a facility, but there are also a number of things working against an immediate grant proposal.

“One of the problems we face is that the (juvenile crime) statistics we received are incomplete,” said Suzanne Reed, a principal administrative analyst for the county’s Chief Administrative Office. “And because we’ve received this data so late, it’s caused a real time crunch. We need a detailed analysis of Tahoe’s needs, and we don’t have that yet.”

What is likely to happen is that a grant proposal to upgrade the Placerville facility will be submitted this year, with a second proposal for Tahoe next year.

“Juvenile corrections is not a moneymaking business,” Kingsbury said. “I see where the county CAO office is coming from. Their task is to look at the bottom line, and these are costs that don’t go away.

“But Tahoe’s needs are right there for all to see.”

County officials will meet with South Lake Tahoe officials again on Monday.

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