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Push for more funding of the Douglas Co. Juvenile Justice Center

Outgoing board member says costs will only rise
Posted at 10:00 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-11 18:08:11-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Construction is already underway on the new juvenile justice center project, which includes both a youth detention center and a courthouse extension, but on Friday county leaders told the press they need $10 million more dollars in order to do the project correctly.

Longtime County Commissioner Clare Duda is soon leaving the board and said adding $10 million to the already $119 million project is his last political fight because the project, especially adding to the courthouse, is so needed.

“I’ve been here for 28 years, a sixth of the life of Douglas County, watching the courthouse get ever tighter, ever more crowded, ever more inadequate,” said Duda.

They need to add $10 million to the project for two reasons.

For one, to make larger rooms and better air handling systems, that they realized they needed once the pandemic began.

“We believe that to ensure the health and safety of our tenants, the juvenile court and the visitors there too, these upgrades are absolutely required,” said Paul Cohen, Administrator, Omaha Douglas Public Building Commission.

And for two, delays.

Board members like Jim Cavanaugh have tried to stop the project before it passed, and then once it got approval, Cavanugh supported a lawsuit.

With the lawsuit and increase in construction cost, it added more than $7 million.

“This project has been hindered from the get-go, it has been undermined, it has really kind of, in some ways, turned into sort of a project from hell,” said Duda.

It will be up to the county board on Tuesday to approve the increased costs. If they don’t, Duda said the next board that takes charge in 2021 will have to make tough decisions.

“The project is going forward but some cutbacks are going to have to be made if they aren’t fully funded,” said Duda.

Commissioner Mike Boyle said he just heard of the extra costs two days ago, and would rather give the millions of dollars to help those suffering from the pandemic.

“We don’t have the money except the cares money, which belongs for people, I don’t think we should use that for this purpose,” said Boyle.

Duda said the $10 million indirectly comes from the CARES Act dollars, as they were able to use it to secure county finances, putting money in the cash reserves to pay for costs like the extra $10 million.

Boyle doesn’t buy, and said the vote next week will likely spark some arguments.

“I’d like to say something but I don’t want to be off-color. I think it’s going to be probably, pretty contentious.”

The new center will be used to house juvenile defenders and court systems for those defenders and also provide office space for county judicial service members.

Read more on the project from the following articles:

Juvenile Justice Center project renderings

Building Commission stalls juvenile justice center project

Juvenile Justice Center project faces legal challenge

Douglas County Board approves $114 million bond for justice center

Protesters interrupt planned groundbreaking of Juvenile Detention Center

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