The Kenai Peninsula Youth Detention Facility has moved a step closer to reality.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, which will operate the facility, announced Friday that the design phase of the project is completed, and it is ready for bidding.
Kenai Mayor John Williams said the project's progress is gratifying.
"For more than 20 years, there has been a group of us desirous of having a facility like this," he said.
He praised the committee that has been working to promote the project for its success in moving the project from dream toward completion.
The Legislature appropriated $4.6 million for the construction.
The city of Kenai donated 10 acres on Marathon Road near the Kenai Municipal Airport for the site, a parcel valued at $380,000, Williams said.
The state expects to open bids and select a contractor by mid-December. Construction is due to begin in the spring.
Williams estimated that construction would take about a year, with the facility opening in the summer of 2003.
At present, juveniles in detention are sent to the McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage.
The new center is expected to save money on transportation, save time for peninsula law enforcement personnel, relieve crowding at McLaughlin and encourage community and family involvement in reforming young offenders.
Keeping them closer to home also would shield them from harmful influences they now encounter in custody in Anchorage, Williams said.
"You are really creating an apprenticeship program in crime," he said. "They meet the big boys up there."
The new facility will allow juvenile offenders to remain on the peninsula for legal action and rehabilitation services. The building will house up to 10 residents and combine juvenile detention, juvenile probation, continuing education and mental health counseling under one roof.
This combination approach to juvenile services is exceptionally successful and is a trend nationwide, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Social Services.
The new facility will serve the entire Kenai Peninsula. A similar community-based juvenile service center is located in Palmer and another will open soon in Ketchikan.
The committee that has been working on getting the facility built will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Legislative Information Office in Kenai to discuss the project's status and the need for citizens to serve on an advisory committee. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, call Pete Sprague at 262-4073.
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