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After years of delay, groundbreaking set for Juvenile Justice Center

Posted at 6:29 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 22:19:12-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A juvenile justice detention center, located in downtown Omaha, is a project that divided the community.

County and city leaders have said moving the justice center from midtown to downtown would give incarcerated kids easier access to the courts, lawyers, programs and would give them newer, nicer buildings.

But many people fought the project, worried about putting another detention center downtown, specifically building a large tower to house the kids.

They clamored for a public vote, but it never happened.

While there hasn’t been an official groundbreaking, dump trucks and construction workers have blocked off part of the street and are now clearing the site for the new youth detention center, in the area of the old MUD building, around 17th and Harney.

This would replace the current detention center located near 42nd and Woolworth.

Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson, who helped spearhead the project, didn’t want to talk about the past political wranglings and the lawsuit that slowed down the project.

“I don’t want to look back, I want to look forward,” says Borgeson.

She said it’s always been about the kids housed inside the facility.

“We can talk buildings all day but we have always said one the main important issues are the programs and services that we need,” says Borgeson.

The non-profit, public-private board called the Justice Center Development Corporation, that is planning the construction of the facility, held a meeting Thursday where they discussed adding on to the project, potentially revamping the air flow system in the old MUD building, which the county bought for the project, and building a larger lobby in the new facility.

“They’re basically telling us, we got this pandemic, we’ve got to look at things differently,” says George Achola, board member, Justice Center Development Corporation.

While longtime opponent of the project, Douglas County Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh, criticized the board considering adding on to the $119 million price tag, Borgeson says nothing is decided.

“It is down the road, do we put the dollars into that? We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to be with us,” says Borgeson.

They also announced there will be an official groundbreaking coming on September 10th, where they can essentially formally launch the project.