By Michael Howell
As part of their budget saving measures the county commissioners had slated the Juvenile Detention Center for closing by November 1, which involved eliminating seven employee positions. Since the budget was passed, however, the county has received notification from the state auditor that the state is ordering that the facility be closed this Friday, October 7.
The county has been out of compliance for some time with the mandatory staffing ratio required by state law for running a juvenile detention facility. It was pressure from the state to hire more personnel that pushed the commissioners to consider closing the facility instead because they simply couldn’t afford to hire anyone. The facility suffered recent damage, however, putting the county out of compliance in terms of those requirements as well.
On Monday the commissioners discussed the possibility of asking for a week or two extension on the closing order. Commission Chairman J.R. Iman said that he was unwilling to vote for an early closing without a contract with another facility in place. He said doing otherwise would not be fair to the employees or be good business.
The county has been working with juvenile detention centers in Missoula and Galen as alternatives for juvenile incarceration. Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher said that the contract with Galen could possibly be signed by Friday and that the county could proceed to negotiate a deal with Missoula as well. An amendment was proposed to the motion to close the county’s facility on the condition that at least one contract is in place with another facility before the closure.