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Cost of locking up juveniles to go up

For the second time this month, the West Central Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Moorhead was a focus of discussion at the Becker County Board meeting on Tuesday.

This time, however, the facility was seeking a more definite commitment from Becker County -- in the form of a fixed commitment to fill four beds at the 24-bed facility, at a rate of $200 per day.

The $305,000 total annual commitment would be considerably more than the average $262,000 per year that the county has been paying for the past five years.

But as was discussed at the June 9 county board meeting, the facility is on track for a $170,000 shortfall in 2009, and part of the reason is that the 14 counties that are currently members in the facility have not been filling the beds consistently. In fact, Becker County paid just $197,000 to the facility in 2008, because it did not use as many beds last year.

Commissioner John Bellefeuille, who has been attending meetings of the four major member counties in the facility -- Clay, Becker, Otter Tail and Douglas -- said that a tentative agreement for funding the detention center was reached at last week's meeting, where the $305,000 commitment from Becker was first proposed.

But several of the commissioners were concerned that this commitment included paying part of the costs for the building itself, when only Clay County has ownership in it. Though Becker County would have a 22 percent voting interest in the board under the new proposal -- which would make the board itself more of a governing board than its current advisory status -- they still felt a commitment to fill 3.5 beds, for a total commitment of $266,000 was more in line with the county's actual usage of the facility.

They asked Bellefeuille to bring the counter-proposal to the group at its next meeting.