Juvenile hall bed rentals fall flat

January 03, 2002 11:00 pm

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Renting beds at the new juvenile hall may not help Del Norte Countys budget deficit as much as was hoped.

Ive written to every chief probation officer in the state, but so far weve gotten very shabby responses, said Del Norte County chief probation officer Robert Seymour.

Seymour had hoped to house juvenile delinquents from neighboring counties where facilities were non-existent or full to offset the cost of an underutilized 34-bed hall here.

Though a grant from the California Board of Corrections paid for the hall, staffing it and other finishing touches created an $800,000 deficit in the county budget this fiscal year.

Seymour and other county officials said renting the 20 or so extra beds at the facility would make up for the deficit, but now theyre not sure enough counties need the beds.

Many counties are opening their own facilities with extra beds. Trinity County has opened one and Siskiyou County is expanding theirs and have not expressed interest in renting ours, said Seymour.

In fact the California Board of Corrections has awarded similar construction grants to at least 30 of the states counties in the last two years.

And now Humboldt Countys director of probation Doug Racines said they are gearing up to apply for a new hall, too.

On average, Humboldts juvenile facility holds seven more detainees than it was designed for.

Racines said his department has set up cots and mattresses in two day rooms to bed the extra people. The hall there was designed for 26 people, but Racines said they often have as many as 33 to 37 juveniles.

Although Del Norte County officials were hoping to take in that overflow at a charge of $100 per bed per day, the reality is Humboldt County cant afford to send more than about two detainees a month.

I mean, thats $3,000 a month per person and obviously its a cost to the county that would have to be looked at closely, said Racines.

Though two detainees from Humboldt would bring Del Norte $96,000 per year, the arrangement would end once Humboldt built its own facility.

When asked if Humboldt would likely qualify for the construction grant in light of Del Nortes ability to provide them with beds, Lisa Gilbert of the California Board of Corrections said it just depends.

It depends on how well their proposal demonstrates a need, Gilbert said.

She also said Del Norte County didnt have to build such a large facility.

Thats up to the county to decide, said Gilbert adding that it was a stipulation of the grant to build a structure that would last at least 35 years.

Curry County will likely offer some help. Probation official Sally Allen said her county will most likely contract with Del Norte, but not until July when its contract with Coos County has ended.

Curry has no juvenile detention facility, but Allen said usually, no more than 245 days per year are needed. That computes to only $24,500 per year.

To fill in the remaining gaps, Seymour said he has asked the Immigration and Naturalization Services to check out the new hall for their needs.

They said theyre going to come up and take a look at it as a holding facility for INS kids, he said.

For now, Del Norte County administrators are struggling to find other ways to fix the general fund budget problems.

Negotiations are now in the works with the countys employee union to cut hours, wages and several positions to make up for the $1.7 million budget deficit.