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Juvenile center project finally under way

After a series of delays, county officials will advertise bids for construction today on a new &

36;16.5 million Juvenile Service Center.

The project, funded through voter-approved bonds, was originally scheduled to start in July, but Deputy County Administrator Dave Kanner said it is likely groundbreaking won't take place until February.

The county will open the bids in January.

Kanner said a combination of a competitive construction industry and a generally more favorable bidding climate during the winter could work toward the county's advantage.

I wouldn't be surprised if bids come in less than expected, said Kanner.

County officials estimate construction costs should amount to &

36;11.5 million of the total project, and expect completion about 18 months after groundbreaking begins.

The remaining &

36;5 million pays for such things as site acquisition, furnishings and architectural and engineering fees.

A &

36;500,000 tunnel leading from the county jail will be used to bring food and laundry to the new facility and also will help protect the identity of offenders.

The new tunnel will connect with an existing tunnel connecting the jail and courthouse that was built in 1981, providing access to an estimated 8,000 prisoners every year.

Kanner said one of the biggest delays was obtaining environmental assessments of the project from the federal government.

The center will be a two-story, 50,405-square-foot building that will feature a courtroom, hearing room, classroom space, intake area and space for the probation and assessment department.

Employing 64 people, the facility will include 20 detention beds, a recreation area, a gymnasium and a shelter area for those who haven't broken the law but need a place to stay.

The new center, at 10th Street between King and Laurel streets downtown, will replace the aging 1950s-era juvenile detention center at the South Gateway Shopping Center.

Voters approved the &

36;16.5 million bond measure in 2000.