Planned youth facility gets low bids

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The lowest bid for a planned Kenai Peninsula-based youth detention facility came in at $3.3 million, well under the $3.7 million budget set by the state.

Construction could begin next spring if the contract is awarded to Wolverine Supply of Wasilla. The company turned in the lowest of six bids for the project.

''Having the project go out to bid and having it fall within what we had hoped for was very satisfying,'' said Pete Sprague, a Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly member from Soldotna who has led a committee pushing the project for about four years.

The project, on Marathon Road near the Kenai Municipal Airport, could be wrapped up within a year, Sprague said.

The 11,560-square-foot building will have 10 cells, offices for state Division of Juvenile Justice employees and, significantly, a large schoolroom, he said.

It also will have an activity area, a small kitchen, outdoor recreation yard and an enclosed and secure garage for transferring youth offenders, said Brian Meissner, an architect for ECI/Hyer Inc., which designed the project.

The goal, as with several other satellite youth detention centers built around the state in recent years, is to keep youth offenders closer to families, schools and communities, as well as save the time and money of shipping them to Anchorage's McLaughlin Youth Center.

McLaughlin typically houses about 10 youth offenders from the Kenai Peninsula at any given time, said Kim Smith, Peninsula district supervisor for Juvenile Justice.

''It's going to change our lives as probation staff and it's going to change the kids' lives as well, and really help out them and their families,'' Smith said.

The planned facility is modeled after a 16-bed detention center open a year in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Meissner said.

The main difference, beside the number of cells, will be more space dedicated to a classroom, Meissner said. The idea is for the peninsula school district to provide education.

Most of the children confined there will serve sentences of a week to 30 days. Long-term sentences will still be served in Anchorage, Meissner said.

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