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Sedgwick County stakes out legislative agenda

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Sedgwick County commissioners plan to vote next month on their legislative platform, which includes plans to seek funding for a facility for juvenile offenders.

Commissioners this week hashed out a draft of the platform outlining the county's priorities and plan to vote on it Dec. 12, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/Qd7gpx ). One of those priorities is getting money for Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, which opened in 1961, and has been considered a model program for helping prevent seriously troubled juveniles from committing more crimes.

The ranch, located at Lake Afton, about 23 miles outside Wichita, offers a temporary home for boys and young men where they can take classes, learn job skills and get therapy and intensive supervision.

County Manager William Buchanan had recommended closing the ranch in his budget for next year, but commissioners later agreed to keep the ranch open another year. The delay was aimed at giving the county time to work with legislators to get more money for the youth residential center, which costs about $1.5 million a year to operate. It costs $204 per day, per boy to operate the facility, with the state picking up $126 per day of that cost.

Buchanan and corrections director Mark Masterson recently met with state leaders to seek more funding.

The county's platform says it's seeking "recognition of the results of our investments in prevention and alternatives to prevent youth from moving more deeply into the juvenile and adult corrections system and requesting financial assistance from the state to pay the actual operating costs."

Also on the county's legislative priority list is continued funding for Affordable Airfares, a subsidy intended to support low-cost air carriers that fly into Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.