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Judge dismisses case blocking new juvenile justice center

juvenile justice center rendering
Posted at 11:57 AM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 12:57:45-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It appears the controversial project that puts the Douglas County Youth Detention Center in downtown Omaha can go on as planned, after a judge dismissed a lawsuit blocking it.

Judge J. Michael Coffey dismissed the case that largely centered around the words "joint use."

The county was able to go-ahead with the $120 million project without a public vote because both the county and city would use the facility. The Omaha Douglas Public Building Commission voted to issue revenue bonds to fund the project last year.

The lawsuit alleged it is not joint use, and that only the county would use the facility, and would be the ones paying 100 percent of the cost. Attorney Patrick McDermott called it a "scheme to avoid a vote of the people."

Judge Coffey disagreed, saying in court documents, the Omaha Police Department would be largely responsible for arresting juveniles and taking them into the center, and that the city would be responsible for paying the room and board, before the juveniles go to court.

He says the legislature left open the interpretation of "joint use, allowing cities and counties to determine what is sufficient joint use.

If the plans go through, the youth detention center would be moved from its current location at 42nd and Woolworth, to 18th and Harney, building a 10-story youth detention center and courthouse annex.

3 News Now reached McDermott over the phone, he said that "it's too early" and his client is still considering his options.