Marion County Commission recently became aware of another need that was overlooked in planning the new county jail and law enforcement center. And this missing piece was a lot more important than a radio tower. It was children.
The Community Corrections division of the Eighth Judicial District handles both juvenile offenders and children who have to be taken out of their homes and placed in foster care. The agency has been using the old office portion of the old jail when needed, but no space was included in plans for the new facility.
It seems this is a case of Community Corrections doing its job too peacefully. It was forgotten in the plans for the new facility because it has operated so smoothly. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, then it stands to reason that the nice quiet wheel is forgotten.
Juvenile intake could have remained where it has been, but the county intends to demolish the old jail at some time in the future, and keeping the building heated will be an unforeseen expense. Nonetheless, the commission made the right decision to move juvenile intake into the newer office portion of the old jail until a more permanent solution can be found. And if that permanent solution requires renting space, the commission indicated it may allocate funds to help rent the space.
For the situation the commissioners found themselves in, they made the best decision they could. The county had already, as commissioner Randy Dallke put it, “goofed” by not including space for juvenile intake in the plans for the new jail, but it is making the best of the current situation.
Although Community Corrections has its headquarters in Junction City, its work is important to the county. Every year, dozens of children have to be placed in foster care. Those children need a safe place to wait while that is taken care of. In a single week in November, 13 Marion County children had to be placed in foster care.
It appears Community Corrections might be in its current location only briefly. Marion Police Chief Tyler Mermis is lobbying to find space at the police station for juvenile intake, because he recognizes how important it is. His comments to Marion City Council also suggest that Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke has the same recognition and might be inclined to offer space in Peabody.
Mermis’ quick reaction speaks volumes about how important he considers these social services for children, and he is in as good a position as anyone to understand their importance.
— ADAM STEWART