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Douglas county board hears dueling proposals for juvenile justice center

Posted at 5:20 PM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-14 18:20:18-04

Jim Cavanaugh says his proposal would cost $70 million less than the one proposed downtown and it put the courtrooms, attorney offices and the detention facility in different buildings. 

After being a vocal critic of the $120 million proposal that would consolidate juvenile services into one spot downtown, Cavanaugh presented his plan.

"This is $50 million not a $120 million. Secondly this is better for kids than dragging them downtown simply for the sake of having them under one roof. That roof will look like a jail" says Jim Cavanaugh, county commissioner.

Cavanaugh says his plan will save the county money, give it a chance to add on in the future and will not force it to use eminent domain to require the property for the project. But his plan centers on renovating the existing youth jail in Midtown and therefore the county would still have to transport youth inmates to the courthouse.

“Individuals who we have to shackle to bring downtown, these young people are never going to have to be shackled to come into the courthouse, they're never going to have to wear those things that make them appear to be a criminal and make them act like criminals," says Ben Gray, city council president. 

Cavanaugh also calls for his proposal to be put on the ballot, which is something several commissioners, including Clare Duda, are not fond of.

"If we put it to the vote of the public to say a 15-year bond, what happens in five years when we've outgrown it, what happens if the public says no don't build it and we say we have to! We're going to build it anyway," says Clare Duda, county commissioner. 

Much of the county board expressed support for the original proposal, something that county attorney Don Kleine seconds. 

"It's an investment in our community, it'll pay off in the long run and it's the way to do it. It's not a band-aid," says Kleine. 

Cavanaugh's proposal also saves money by taking a parking garage out of the plan. He says Omaha already has adequate downtown parking.