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What is wrong with the current juvenile justice center?

Today, there is no juvenile justice center in Douglas County. Various components of the system are spread across multiple locations in Douglas County. As the DLR/Chinn Report identified, co-locating juvenile services in a center should be a County priority.

Why would we spend so much money to build fewer beds than the current center? Isn’t this a wasteful use of taxpayer money?

The final number of beds is still under discussion, but as the DLR/Chinn Report concluded, “Based on the forecast models and suggested ways to reduce incarceration, the recommended planning capacity for secure detention is 48 beds, with expansion capacity to 64 at some point in the future, if system changes and new alternatives are not implemented. Current population in secure detention is averaging 75-80 youth, so the recommended future capacity assumes that changes will be implemented to reduce the number of youth in secure detention.”

Shouldn’t we be trying to help the kids rather than just putting them in jail?

Absolutely. Besides moving kids through the system, providing improved services to keep them out of the system is part of our efforts.

Why is eminent domain necessary? Can’t we just build this somewhere else?

After reviewing several sites, only two allowed the County to meet the primary goal of co-locating all services. Acquiring one of the properties through eminent domain was necessary after the owner of the building refused to sell for a price that was nearly double what was paid for the property a little over five years ago. The use of eminent domain condemnation actions, always with just compensation to the landowner, is a rare last resort.

I have heard that this proposal will result in an increase to my property taxes. Is this true? How much will my property taxes go up?

The recent average assessed value of a residential property in Douglas County was $159,840. At this assessed value, the increase in property taxes would be $47.95 a year, or $3.99 per month.

Why hasn’t there been any transparency in this process? Is this just a backroom deal with business leaders in Omaha?

A review of the DLR/Chinn Report clearly shows that this discussion has been in the arena of public officials and those that have an interest in the juvenile justice system. Further, as the plan was being put together, elected officials were kept advised, participated in discussions and approved proposed actions for the project moving forward.

Will a new building really make any difference? Don’t we need to change the way we treat kids in the juvenile justice system?

By co-locating all services in one facility we are beginning to make one major change in how we treat kids. For example, children will no longer need to be shackled in order to be transported from 42nd Street to downtown Omaha for a hearing. We are making cooperation within the system easier for parents by co-locating services and attorneys in the same location as their children.

I’ve heard that there is a cheaper alternative that doesn’t require the use of eminent domain or the demolition of a historic building. Why doesn’t that alternative work?

The alternate proposal does not satisfy the vision of co-locating services and it does not fit the comprehensive long-term vision for juvenile justice reform.

Why are you using a nonprofit to lead the building of the new Justice Center?

Nonprofit, 501c3 organizations have been used for over three decades in Lincoln and Omaha to deliver projects of this nature. It allows project schedules to be compressed, saving time and money. Recently, another local political entity, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, authorized a nonprofit to lead the development of the $350 million Buffet Cancer Center. Architectural and programmatic success was realized, and the project was delivered on time and on budget by a nonprofit entity, the Cancer Center Development Corporation (“CCDC”). The CCDC assumed significant risk and managed this complex, multi-dimensional project to a successful conclusion that exceeded expectations. Over 80% of the work was competitively bid, and all expenditures were accounted for in public and audited throughout.