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Juvenile Hall plan gets OK

A plan to build a juvenile hall at South Shore got an unanimous thumbs-up Thursday from El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

“I’m very pleased for the community,” said Chief Probation Officer Joe Warchol. “It’s a commitment. What they’re saying is ‘Go apply for money. We’re willing to commit to that and to staffing it.’ “

With the vote, the board made a $5 million commitment to a proposed $9.3 million juvenile detention facility that would be built next to El Dorado County Jail on Johnson Boulevard.



An early cost estimate for the 40-bed hall was $14.5 million.

“Cost is certainly a significant item. As of last week things were not looking very good,” El Dorado County Director of General Services George Martin said to supervisors at Monday’s meeting. “$14.5 million was too prohibitive for us to afford.”



But the county reduced the estimated cost of the project by almost $5 million with the help of an architectural firm in Fresno, Calif., with experience designing juvenile detention facilities. They told the county that a 40-bed facility could be fit in a 22,000-square-foot structure instead of the first proposed, and more expensive, 33,000 square-foot building.

“A lot of enhancements got us up to 33,000 square feet,” said Tim McSorley, construction manager of the proposed juvenile hall. “For example, the recreation component was predominantly indoors, now we’re looking to put it outdoors. Also the day-use rooms were oversized.”

With the board’s commitment to the project a done deal, the county can now submit a grant application to the California Board of Corrections due Tuesday. The application asks the state to earmark $4,020,000 for the juvenile hall. If the application is approved, the county could receive the money as early as May.

By the time the state hands over the money, if they do OK the application, El Dorado County must own or have a long-term lease on the land parcel where the hall would be constructed. Right now the county has targeted four wooded acres next to the jail. The property is owned by Lake Tahoe Unified School District. McSorley said negotiations to buy or lease the property are in preliminary stages.

If the project goes forward, 2005 is the latest a South Lake Tahoe juvenile detention center could open its doors. The Board of Corrections would require the grant money be spent by 2005. Warchol said he is unsure when construction would begin because the hall has to be approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and other organizations.

While the future of a South Shore juvenile hall is still up in the air, a portion of South Lake Tahoe’s delinquent youths will continue to be transported to El Dorado County Juvenile Hall in Placerville. It’s a 40-bed facility that is perpetually overcrowded.

For that reason, many youth offenders from South Shore are cited and released instead of being detained.

Only youth who commit violent felonies are taken to Placerville. A needs assessment report released in January stated that 76 percent of felonies and 95 percent of misdemeanors committed by South Shore juveniles result in citations only.

Warchol said plans to build a new 60-bed facility in Placerville have been scrapped. Instead he hopes to use some county money to improve the old structure.

“We’re going to harden it, make more secure,” he said. “When kids go back up to Tahoe it will help lessen the load.”


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