OGDEN -- After more than a decade of trying to make it happen, the stars have aligned for the state to make building a new youth detention facility in Weber County a priority, a city official says.
"The timing is now," Greg Buxton, Ogden management services director, said of plans to build a new multiuse youth center. Buxton said Chris Roach, deputy director of the state Division of Juvenile Justice Services, said this could save as much as $390,000 per year by consolidating local services for troubled youths
The facility would serve youths in both Weber and Morgan counties.
The proposed center would consolidate six programs for youths, operating in six facilities in both Weber and Davis counties, into one location.
The structure carries an estimated price tag of $12.3 million.
The county's current facility in Roy was built in 1965 and is operating at 24 beds because of budget cuts.
The average number of youths sent to the facility is three per day, said Ogden Police Chief Mike Ashment.
Three youths per day is more than the existing facility can handle, said Roach.
Because of the limited number of beds, many troubled youths remanded to a detention center are transported to Farmington Bay or Salt Lake City.
Roy city has expressed an interest in purchasing the current facility, and the county has land near the sheriff's office under contract as a potential location for the new facility.
Officials from Ogden and Weber County met with members of the legislative infrastructure and general government appropriations committee at Weber State University's Stewart Stadium on Friday to discuss the merits of the project.
The committee is charged with weighing the merits of state projects and developing a list of projects that typically are funded on a priority basis.
"It's something that is critical, I believe, that the state can't continue to ignore," Buxton said.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, chairs the committee and said it is helpful to hear from local officials about the project. However, he said, when the Legislature meets and assesses wants and needs, it will be funding availability that will drive decisions.
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson describes the project as being a critical chokepoint for the county in dealing with youths and law enforcement.
Ashment describes the existing facility as operating in limbo.
"We simply want to get to a point where we have a facility here that is adequate for the needs of our juveniles here and in Morgan County," he said.
"It's been on the agenda for 11 years. It's kind of to the point where we need a decision."
Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson said problems with the existing facility have a significant ripple impact on programs throughout the county.
Using two officers to transport youths to Farmington or Salt Lake City hurts everyone in the county, he said.
"In the end, it's about the safety and security of the community. ... When you take officers out of service to do transports, that's a big deal. ... It makes the community less safe, and it's a big part of the issue we're facing right now."