Public speaks up about juvenile hall |

Public speaks up about juvenile hall

Gregory Crofton

Residents asked: Do we need it? Are we rushing this whole process? Can we think of land that isn’t in the middle of town and near a school?

City and county officials invited those questions at a community meeting Monday night. It drew about 20 residents and 15 officials to the South Lake Tahoe Branch Library to learn about a proposal to build a 40-bed juvenile hall at South Shore.

Residents who spoke seemed divided in opinion.

“It’s just a finger in the dam,” said a man. “And the dam will break. This huge plan will be obsolete in a year or less – that’s what it seems to me. It concerns me, having a prison-like system in South Lake Tahoe which is a resort community. It seems like the two don’t mix.”

El Dorado County Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury responded: “These are Tahoe citizens committing these crimes and we have the responsibility of dealing with them.”

A man who works for Lake Tahoe Unified School District and lives near the two plots of land chosen to build upon, said he believes a juvenile within sight of the grounds of South Tahoe Middle School would have a negative impact. He changed his opinion after the two top probation officers in the county spoke.

“You convinced me,” he said. “My position is that this is very needed.” But then the man questioned if the hall should be built on land owned by Lake Tahoe Unified School District. He said with the population growth that’s expected in coming years, the school will have to expand.

Two pieces of land, a 4-acre plot owned by the school district next to the jail, and a 2-acre spot inside the parking lot at the city’s Government Center, are being considered as spots to build.

The proposed 23,000 square-foot hall would cost $9 million. The county has approved $5 million for the project and is in the running to receive $4,020,000 from California Board of Corrections.

To get the federal and state money, El Dorado County needs to own and have the right to build on one piece of land and secure building rights on an alternative plot.

At a City Council meeting tonight, county officials are expected to be asked to consider the plot of land inside the Government Center’s parking lot, land which is owned by the city and county, as the primary building site.

The county has been in negotiations with Lake Tahoe Unified School District to buy or secure a long-term lease on its 4-acres but has not reached an agreement.

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