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Sheriff plans to close juvenile detention facility

4/29/2013

SALINA (AP) -- Staffing issues and an increasingly violent inmate population have prompted a central Kansas sheriff to close a juvenile detention facility, but county commissioners aren't so sure he has the power to do that.

Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski called all three commissioners Friday to say he had decided to close the Saline County Juvenile Detention Center early this week, the commissioners confirmed to the Salina Journal (http://bit.ly/17r5HK5).

"It was kind of a surprise to me," said Commission Chairman Randy Duncan. "We know that there are some needs -- a temporary staffing crisis and a few more juveniles, but it's not clear to me whether this is a long-term problem or a short-term problem."

He said it's also unclear whether Kochanowski has the authority to close the facility.

The sheriff declined to comment when contacted over the weekend, saying he will make an announcement Monday.

Kochanowski and Lt. Sean Kochanowski, who operates the juvenile facility, asked for at least two new staff positions at the center during a commission meeting April 16. The sheriff told commissioners the center is often over capacity, which has led to altercations and injuries to staff and inmates.

The sheriff said the facility is seeing increasing numbers of violent offenders. He told commissioners juvenile detention standards call for 15 staff members for facilities of similar size, but the Saline County facility has only 11.

The county budgeted just over $700,000 for juvenile center operations for 2013, which was an increase of more than 3 percent from the previous year. The increase was to pay for salaries, utilities and medical supplies.

Duncan said he didn't think two new positions would be an option this year because they would cost about $78,000 that was not budgeted.

"We're not like the federal government," he said. "You just don't create money out of thin air."

Duncan said the sheriff was informing staff and would arrange to move seven juveniles to the North Central Kansas Juvenile Detention Facility in Junction City. The sheriff had previously told commissioners it would cost $150 a day per inmate to house them there, but Duncan was hoping Glen Kochanowski could negotiate a cheaper rate.

Duncan said he thinks the sheriff is acting out of concern for his employees and the juveniles housed at the facility, which he believes are also priorities of commissioners.

"I think everybody's heart's in the right place," he said. "Everybody's wanting to do the right thing. We just have a little bit different approach."