Cavanaugh Presents Differing Option for Juvenile Center
Douglas County Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh is determined to provide alternatives to the county justice reform efforts underway by the county board, which he says is a better deal for taxpayers. His plan has a courthouse annex situated downtown, while the Douglas County Youth Center would remain next to the county hospital near 42nd and Woolworth.
Cavanaugh held a town hall meeting to persuade participants of his “Alternative 2.0” proposal April 22 at North High School.
His idea is to replicate similar arrangements by the county board, where “A Vote of the People” funds a county construction project. In this case, it would be revenue bonds for new facilities which house the juvenile courts, associated legal services, and youth detention. His two basic components:
a) An educational setting and rehabilitative atmosphere for juvenile detention at Douglas County Youth Center, which would undergo refurbishments; and,
b) The courthouse annex, associated offices and legal services, which would have a new home on county property downtown.
A “BETTER, CHEAPER, SMARTER” APPROACH
Other public officials who attended the evening town-hall, including Senators Ernie Chambers and Justin Wayne, shared their opinions. They were among the audience who are encouraging Cavanaugh and his approach; in particular a financing method which provides a ballot question on whether to approve the revenue bonds.
Sen. Ernie Chambers, Nebraska Legislature
Sen. Chambers was seated on stage for most of the meeting. He took to the podium when invited and said, “Since Commissioner Cavanaugh was elected by the public, he is our servant. He did a very good job [with the presentation]. The thing I appreciate to him [sic] the most, I mean more than anything else, he is willing to talk to the voters. He brings what his plan is to the people. You see him.
When you have those who are going to make money by doing the construction, having all the work and the plans done in secret, do you think they are worried about doing it the cheapest way? Or are they going to dig deep in the public treasury as they can? Public money mostly is going to fund that project.”
Sen. Chambers advised that any arrangement should be made with public input and access to information.
Sen. Justin Wayne, Nebraska Legislature
Sen. Wayne said he understands that more space for judges is needed. However, he isn’t completely convinced by the county plan.
“I’m opposed to moving juvenile center downtown…In the end of the day,[sic] kids need to be out in places that look like schools, that have green light and green space, that have windows where they can interact like they are supposed to as kids. I don’t see the new design doing that. I am going to help push a bill requiring this to be a vote of the people.”
Sen. Wayne is considering supporting a rider provision on a legislative bill which would require a ballot initiative to approve funding on the project. He is looking at Senator John S. McCollister for for a possible rider.
Roger Garcia, Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors
Garcia supports and prefers a vote of the people on a bond-funding question for the justice center project, which would then get a “AAA” bond rating, which gives the project a lower interest rate on financing. He says that is a cheaper way to fund it, and to build community consensus.
OFFICIAL COUNTY PLAN
The Douglas County Board, during a regular meeting March 26, approved a request on revenue bonds to build a courthouse annex and juvenile detention center in downtown Omaha. The bond issuance request at $114 million goes to Omaha-Douglas Public Building Commission for consideration and is expected to be on their agenda in May. If approved by the building commission, the request would then need municipal approval, requiring the City Council and mayor concurring with the $114 million expenditure on the county justice center project.
Five commissioners on the county board say the revenue bonds are necessary to execute a one-stop model where everything for juvenile justice is located together.
Douglas County Unified Justice Center Development Corporation (JCDC), a newly formed nonprofit, has development authority, granted by an ancillary agreement with the county. The justice center project, according to JCDC, includes $7.3 million for HDR Architecture, Inc., as architect and engineer, and $2.5 million for Burlington Capital as project manager.
Commissioners Mary Ann Borgeson and P. J. Morgan sit on the board of this nonprofit. At the Douglas County Justice Center Forum on April 2, the nonprofit told participants no alternative plans would be considered.
The county board voted 6-1 to ask the building commission for revenue bonds. Commissioners voting yes were Borgeson, Morgan, Clare Duda, Marc Kraft, Chris Rodgers. Mike Boyle, an opponent to relocating juvenile detention downtown, also voted yes. Jim Cavanaugh voted no.