A $120 million juvenile justice center, to be built in Omaha has hit a couple of big snags. A historic building is in the way and more people are saying they do not want downtown, turned into a detention district.
Residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting said that the proposal for the new building site was troubling because there was no actual problem that needed to be solved. Douglas County wants to build a new juvenile justice center on this block at 18th and Harney.
The $120 million facility would house the juvenile courts, new offices for the county attorney and public defender. During a meeting to discuss the proposal concerned residents said there seemed to be no reason to move downtown.
"You have a whole county, not this place,” said concerned resident Luis Jimenez. “Why spend $120 million for something we don't need. It sounds to me like you're proposing to build an airport while at the same time wanting less traffic so I don't see how you can ask all of us to give you ideas for a problem that is nonexistent,” said concerned resident, Allison Wade.
County commissioner James Cavanaugh says that they approached this project looking at two very important factors. "It occurred to us that are two really prime directives when talking about this justice center, what is in the best interest of the child and what is in the best interest of the taxpayers,” said Cavanaugh.
Douglas County Youth Center superintendent, Brad Alexander, says he hasn't been thoroughly informed or involved with any decisions that are being discussed which troubles some residents. “If the superintendent of the youth center isn't involved who is pushing the whole agenda,” said community activist, Brian Smith.
The owner of the building that the commission wants to take over with eminent domain, Bob Perrin, attended Tuesday’s meeting and says that there is much the board hasn't considered. “We have not thought about where the site should be, what are the programs that we are offering and what other services we will need,” said Perrin.
In the end, the residents said they want to know why the site is being moved when it doesn’t seem to be necessary. "They shouldn't be downtown where downtown and the old market, it's not about imprisonment or detention or incarceration,” said Jimenez.
The commission says they want to hear the public's input along the way because everything is still in the planning stages. A meeting with public comment on this same proposal will take place Thursday, August 2nd at 1 pm.