Local juvenile hall closer to reality | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local juvenile hall closer to reality

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Wednesday approved a permit for a juvenile hall to be built on school land next to the El Dorado County Jail.

The 4-acre parcel, closest to Johnson Boulevard and behind South Tahoe Middle School, is owned by Lake Tahoe Unified School District. The district has been negotiating with El Dorado County to lease or buy the land. The school board is not expected to make a decision about the land until November.

The county owns a 2.2-acre parcel next to the El Dorado County sheriff’s substation. If the county can’t work out a deal with the school district or if environmental assessors decide the land is not suitable for the juvenile hall, it could be built on the 2.2-acre plot.

The hall, a 40-bed, $8.1 million project, is being financed by a $4 million grant from California Board of Corrections and county money. The county competed against dozens of other counties to obtain the grant money. A needs-assessment report delivered January 2001 made the case that the county’s one juvenile hall in Placerville is not sufficient.

“Youth in the Tahoe basin know they will not be taken to the Placerville Juvenile Hall for all but the most serious offenses, and thus they believe there are no ‘real’ consequences for delinquent behavior,” states the report, compiled by Suzie Cohen & Associates. “In the community’s view, this sends exactly the wrong message to young people.”

With TRPA approval of the project secure, the county is now focused on environmental studies from the state that are expected to be completed sometime in October. Construction of a juvenile hall could begin as early as May 2003, with the facility open as early as September 2004.

A public hearing for the juvenile hall was not initially scheduled for the Governing Board meeting Wednesday. But Marjorie Springmeyer, a longtime landowner at South Shore, sent a letter to the agency requesting a public hearing, and it was granted.

In 1967, Springmeyer’s family donated the land that now holds the courthouse, jail, and police and sheriff’s department.

“I’ve always said the courthouse is on the wrong property,” Springmeyer said. “That land should have gone to the City of South Lake Tahoe. To this day the city doesn’t have a city hall. They gave it away to the county for $1. Lawyers have covered it up for everybody.”

Hal Cole, a Governing Board member and city councilman, said the city and county are respectful of the Springmeyers’ contribution and are making every effort to keep the juvenile hall off land her family donated.

“If finances ever allow us to, we would like to put a city hall in,” Cole said. “The Springmeyer and Johnson families have been very generous to the city and the county and we’ve tried to be respectful.”

In other action Wednesday:

n the Governing Board approved the staff’s plan to move its office to a warehouse on lower Kingsbury Grade by March 2003. The move will save about $50,000 a year in rent, said agency Executive Director Juan Palma, but negotiations of the lease are ongoing.

n Staff handed out binders filled with information regarding its proposed scenic review system, to be heard by the Governing Board at their September meeting. Palma told the board that recent discussion sessions about the system, between the agency and concerned members of the public, have been fruitful. “Personally, I believe we are not far from an agreement,” Palma said. “The answer is within our grasp. We will bring something in September you can all buy into.”

Governing Board members then asked Palma what came from a public meeting about the scenic system at Incline on Monday. The meeting was convened by the Nevada legislative committee with oversight of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “They recessed for a future time and left it at that,” Palma said.

Dean Heller, chairman of the Governing Board and Nevada secretary of state, also attended the meeting.

“Basically their direction to us was just to continue the dialogue, make sure the general public’s voice is heard in the process.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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