Local news

Juvenile Center Plan Debated

Legislators are trying to end bickering among Eastern Washington counties over a proposed juvenile detention center at Medical Lake.

The center, Martin Hall, is scheduled to open in a renovated building on the Eastern State Hospital campus in spring 1997.

The project is sponsored by a consortium of nine Eastern Washington counties, including Spokane County.

Opponents complain that Spokane County will pay 18.5 percent of Martin Hall’s cost, but get only one in nine votes on the consortium.

The county’s Superior Court judges also said they don’t want to send juveniles, who they are legally responsible for, to a facility controlled by the consortium and not the county court system.

Two bills in the House would clarify ownership of the facility and administration over the inmates.

Rep. Larry Sheahan, R-Rosalia, said the bills are designed to quell foot-dragging by the county and the state.

“I just want this settled, and I want to see Martin Hall up and running,” Sheahan said. “We have to give them encouragement to get things moving.”

The Martin Hall building is considered surplus property and normally would be transferred to another state agency.

House Bill 2720 would allow the state to sign a long-term lease for the property with the consortium. The other bill, HB1339, would transfer authority over juveniles in custody at the center from the county court system to the consortium.

That transfer is aimed at addressing the judges’ concerns about who is responsible for juveniles at the center.

Both measures have passed the House and are before Senate committees pending a vote on the Senate floor.

, DataTimes

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