Nevada County Board of Supervisors to consider closing juvenile hall | TheUnion.com
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Nevada County Board of Supervisors to consider closing juvenile hall

John Orona
Staff Writer

After not finding enough buy-in for its transformation into a youth center, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider closing down the Carl F. Bryan II Juvenile Hall by the end of the fiscal year.

Due to high costs and low intake, the hall was at the start of a five-year process attempting to shift away from juvenile detention and into an expanded youth facility that could be used to host community youth programs.

The statewide trend of shrinking juvenile hall populations led the Nevada County Grand Jury to recommend the hall’s closure in 2013 and again in 2016. Over the last 12 months the average daily local population at the hall was just 2.9 juveniles per day, which has further dropped down to 2.6 in the last six months.

However, the county last year approved the youth center plan with securing contracts with nearby counties to house their juvenile wards and attracting community programs as the centerpieces of the transformation.

The county approved contracts with five counties this year, estimated to bring in $100,000, but was not able to bring in expected programs like the Earle Jamieson Continuation School due to high costs of renovating the facility.

“The costs are much higher than we thought a year and a half ago,” Chief Probation Officer Mike Ertola said. “The superintendent of schools was willing to come over, but costs were becoming astronomical.”

According to Ertola, what was estimated to cost $175,000 last year soared to more than $400,000, even before all work was completed.

Ertola said one challenge to bringing in program partners was the stigma of housing them in a detention facility.

“I think the idea of a detention center, even though the kids would definitely never cross paths, I was finding it difficult to convince people to use our space for part of their programming,” he said.

Furthermore, El Dorado County is building a new juvenile hall facility set to open in fall 2021, which Ertola expects to eat into the county’s ability to secure contracts to house juveniles. The county has agreements with Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, and Inyo counties, all of which would be either closer to the new Placerville facility or had previous contracts with them.

Attempting to remain viable, the hall previously reduced its budget from $3.5 million to $2.7 million annually by not filling about a dozen positions, but it was not enough.

“Still, the feeling was that was a lot of money for less than three kids a day locally,” Ertola said.

If the supervisors approve the closure, the working group will meet to discuss further options on how the facility can be used for the county. The county would then secure contracts with Placer and El Dorado counties to house its juvenile wards and would make efforts to move juvenile hall staff into other county departments.

Before recommending the youth center plan, the working group also looked into using the space for homeless or mental health services, but due to the funding with which the hall was built, it is required to be used for criminal justice purposes.

“It breaks my heart,” Ertola said. “I started in the juvenile hall, I’ve done everything I can to keep this juvenile hall and youth center alive, but I think at this time it’s the right thing to do.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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