County officials ponder future of youth services center

Bartholomew County officials are trying to figure out what to do about the county’s youth services center.

Bartholomew County Commissioners asked the County Council this week to fund a study on how best to repair or replace the aging building on Illinois Avenue, but also on what the future of youth services will be in the county. The facility houses juvenile defenders, but also shelters children in need of protection and offers day treatment programs.

Commissioners President Larry Kleinhenz said that the more than 56-year-old building needs major repairs and it was never meant to be a detention facility. He suspects that the cost to repair the facility will be more than to replace it completely. He asked the council to provide funding for the study, which he estimated could cost $150,000 or more.

County Council members have previously said that they are concerned about the cost to provide more programs and services than other counties provide. Council President Jorge Morales said that he has no appetite to continue to increase the services the county provides to the juveniles held in the center.

The officials also said that the statewide trend seems to be fewer counties operating youth detention facilities. Councilwoman Leah Beyer said that if there are fewer options, perhaps the county could raise funds by charging other counties to provide the services. Councilman Matt Miller said that the county needs to decide whether it wants to be in the youth detention business or not and then proceed accordingly.

Sheriff Chris Lane said that if the county was to no longer have a youth center, he would have to staff transportation personnel around the clock just to transport juveniles to wherever they will eventually need to go.

The council agreed to read a recent report on the center and to consider funding further study when the costs are better known.