News Briefs

Studying Options

Madison County officials are eyeing other options for juvenile detention, as the county does not have its own juvenile detention center and availability is dwindling at local facilities.

Youth Court judges Ed Hannan and Staci O’Neal and Sheriff Randy Tucker approached the Madison County board of supervisors to discuss options moving forward.

“We’re the sixth largest county in the state and we don’t have one,” Judge Hannan said. “We are not here to advocate for one, but we are here to let you know the situation we are in.”

Hannan said the county currently depends on facilities in Yazoo and Rankin counties to house juveniles. They are finding it most difficult to place females.

“Over recent years, Rankin County has emerged as our second place to go. Placing females, when we have to do that, is especially problematic,” Hannan said.

However, Madison County was recently notified that beginning October 1, Rankin County will only continue to take people from outside of the county in its juvenile detention center at an additional cost of $350 per person each day. 

“Our options of where we can place them is dwindling,” Hannan said.

For example, he received a phone call at 2:30 a.m. the morning of the supervisors meeting from the Sheriff’s office about a masked teenager who was arrested while attempting to break into an owner-occupied dwelling.

“I have to have a place to send that child,” Hannan said.

He pulled the numbers of youth they had to find a place for in juvenile detention centers from January 1, 2016 to now and found that there were 387 youth that had to be housed during that time period.

Hannan said that roughly comes out to just over 10 people per month. The most they’ve had to place in one month was 25.

“It’s an issue of public safety,” said Sheriff Tucker. “It’s also a statutory requirement to provide a detention facility.”

“(A juvenile detention center) requires completely different staffing, completely different training, completely different location,” Tucker said.

There is also the complication of separating males and females. They also have to have different sites for adults and juveniles.

“There are some hurdles you have to overcome,” he said. “There is a need there and it’s only going to get worse. Our options are narrowing and then we’re going to be in quite a pickle.”

The board of supervisors tasked Sheriff Tucker and the judges to get with other county officials to work out options for the county moving forward.

They will now identify the costs of either building a juvenile detention center in Madison County, which Tucker said could cost around $5 million, or an alternate plan to house detainees.

Continuing to send them to Rankin County’s juvenile detention center could end up costing the county approximately $500,000 a year in detention costs.

“We have to figure out a plan of action,” Tucker said.

 

To Seek Trail Bids

A contractor could be in place by Christmas to construct the Museum Trail, more than eight years after the city of Jackson received funds to build it.

However, work on the much-anticipated project likely won’t begin until next spring.

Last week, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) gave the city permission to advertise for bids on the long-awaited project that will run from the Mississippi Farmers Market to the LeFleur Museum District.

City officials say they expect to bid the project in the next 30 days and say a contractor could be in place by December. Even so, work likely won’t begin until the spring, once the weather warms up and dries out.

Jackson Engineering Manager Charles Williams said MDOT typically doesn’t issue notices to proceed in winter, citing the cold, wet conditions.

“It’s late August, we won’t open the bids until the first of October. By the time we get through processing (them) and get a proposal to the city council it will be November,” he said.

Once the city council signs off on a contractor, the proposal then has to be sent to MDOT to concur. That means the contracting firm likely wouldn’t be in place until December.

The state’s transportation agency has to sign off on the plans because federal funds are being used to pay for the project. 

In 2011, the city received a $1.1 million federal grant to help pay for the trail’s construction. Jackson leaders had hoped the project would be completed years ago, but several hurdles have popped up along the way.

For instance, it took years for the city to obtain right-of-way for the project. Additionally, the city didn’t finish up construction plans, in part, because they were waiting for crews to install a major water main along the trail’s path. Plans also had to be modified because of increases in cost.

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