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County struggles with funding to keep detention center open

The Carbon County Juvenile Detention Center is around 10 years old, but with decreases in state spending it's operation could be greatly affected.

Sun Advocate reporter

With tightening state budgets, many programs are at risk of closure. One such program is the juvenile detention center in Price. According to center director, Angie McCourt, although it is unlikely that the entire center will be closed, some of its programs could lose state funding. Currently, about $60,000 of the center's funding is under review. If such a cut takes place, it could close the center's ability to temporarily house juvenile offenders, ages 10 to 17. They would then need to be transferred to Provo, according to County Commissioner Mike Milovich.

"I think it's a public safety issue; we have to take an officer out of circulation to drive to Provo and that has liability problems if there's an accident. In my eyes, this is really not viable," said the commissioner.

In order to keep center programs open, Carbon County is considering augmenting the funding shortfalls, but has not made any decisions as the state legislature has not made any firm commitments. Overall, the state is making $4 million in cuts to the detention system. According to McCourt, however, many such cuts were made last year, with the holes being filled with one-time stimulus money. This funding will run out in June 2010. Thus, the county is considering its options. In Price, the center's yearly budget is around $2.8 million. It employs 26 full-time and five part-time positions.

"Their department was just told that there will be some cuts and we need to figure out a way of making things happen. It will be hard for us to swallow, but it's a matter of economics," said Milovich who added that Carbon County will also try to get Emery to contribute some funding because they also utilize the facility.

In a letter, McCourt outlined what services the center provides which include: locked detention, receiving center (assist law enforcement), youth services (voluntary services targeting ungovernable behavior, skill development for adolescents and their parents) and case management services provided to youth placed into state's custody. Not all of these are at risk of closure, however. Because it is uncertain what the state will do, the county is considering a worst-case scenario.

From July 2009 until now, the center has had around 210 admissions, although some were repeat offenders. If it were to close, they would all need to be transferred to Provo, Vernal or Richfield which, according to McCourt; "would place a tremendous burden on law enforcement."

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