Benton, Franklin counties might make improvements to juvenile facility

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 26, 2014 

Benton and Franklin counties might make improvements to the aging juvenile justice center.

During a joint meeting Wednesday afternoon, commissioners from both counties directed the two county administrators to work together on a request for qualifications for an architect.

The architect will be charged with conducting a needs assessment and providing cost estimates.

"We're really pleased it's taking this direction and we're hopeful it will have some positive results," said Darryl Banks, juvenile justice center administrator, after the meeting.

Commissioners also said they want to see the two jurisdictions collaborate on capital facilities plans for bicounty operations, such as human services.

The juvenile facility off West Canal Drive in Kennewick dates to the late 1970s.

The detention area was expanded in the 1990s and doesn't need attention at this time, officials said.

But the administrative area hasn't seen any major renovations and is cramped, with several people sharing office space and groups sometimes running out of places to meet, Banks told the Herald.

About 70 people regularly work in the administrative area, and the center also has numerous volunteers and contract treatment providers, Banks said.

The roof, carpeting and HVAC system also need to be replaced, the public bathrooms need to be improved and the courtroom needs an update, he said.

Wednesday's session was the second special bicounty meeting in as many months. Commissioners from both counties in January decided to begin gathering together more often to bolster communication and collaboration in an effort to improve bicounty operations.

In years past, "I don't think there was that much communication going on between the two counties," said Benton Commissioner Shon Small. "I think this right here is another stepping stone that continues to make us more efficient."

The juvenile justice center discussion grew out of talk Wednesday about a phone change.

Benton County -- which is the administrative agency for bicounty operations, meaning it handles payroll and the like -- recently upgraded its phone system, including at the juvenile justice center.

The price tag for the juvenile center phone work totaled about $223,100, and Benton County wants Franklin County to chip in about $62,400.

Franklin Commissioner Bob Koch said his county only recently learned about the upgrade and associated cost, and "it's a little difficult to have somebody spend our money for us."

Benton Commissioner Jerome Delvin said his county has been bearing most of the maintenance costs at the juvenile facility. "In my mind, the bigger issue is ... when maintenance is done over there or things are done over there, I don't know necessarily that (costs) are shared all the time."

Delvin sees two options moving ahead -- the juvenile center stays a joint operation with more cost sharing, or one county takes over the operation and the other contracts for services, he said.

Franklin commissioners asked for some more information about the phone upgrade and indicated they'll discuss the matter.

Franklin Commissioner Brad Peck and Benton Commissioner Jim Beaver were absent Wednesday.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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