Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Aug. 22 @ 3:58 p.m. / Local Government, Youth
Fire Emergency Forces Supervisors to Delay Juvenile Hall Closure
Del Norte County supervisors on Tuesday were expected to eliminate the juvenile hall division within the probation department.
But the president of the union that represents county employees pointed out that approving the elimination in the midst of a community emergency would do a disservice to the staff she represents.
“If you approve this today, per our contract, the clock starts ticking for Article 10,” Norma Williams, president of the Del Norte Employees Association SEIU 1021, told supervisors. “This will give employees 25 days to work with HR to apply for positions within the county. It will also, I believe, impact those in terms of any transfer of paperwork and anything else.”
The elimination of juvenile hall as a detention facility and the staff positions it houses was slated to take effect Sept. 14. The Board of Supervisors were also asked to declare juvenile hall unoccupied and direct staff to notify the Board of State and Community Corrections of the change.
Williams pointed out that Chief Probation Officer Lonnie Reyman was absent. And because of the Smith River Complex fires and Pacific Power de-energizing its transmission line, there’s no electricity in most of the county as well as spotty internet and cell phone service.
Williams said she wasn’t able to voice her concerns and questions to County Administrative Officer Neal Lopez or to Human Resources as a result. She urged supervisors to allow staff another opportunity to discuss these issues.
“We do not know how long this is going to last,” Williams said of the fire. “I do not want to have employees negatively impacted and have their rights, per our contract, violated.”
Lopez said he’d have the item brought back before the Board of Supervisors at its first meeting in September, pushing the juvenile hall closure date to Sept. 28 potentially.
“This is really uncertain as Norma pointed out,” he said. “We have no idea when this is going to end and it’s taking all of our resources now.”
The Board agreed to table its decision until a later date.
At its meeting on Aug. 8, the Board of Supervisors approved six new positions within a restructured probation department that includes closing the juvenile detention facility and creating a re-entry unit.
Reyman has proposed turning juvenile hall into a new Youth Opportunity Center with a hub of programs for “justice-involved and at-risk youth.”
In his staff report to the Board on Tuesday, Reyman stated that changing the facility’s status to an unoccupied custodial institution will allow it to be under the umbrella with the Board of State and Community Corrections without having to meet all Title 15 and 24 regulations.
“We will continue to maintain an inspection cycle with both local agencies and the BSCC in order to allow the possibility of reopening the facility as a custody institution in the future without updating it to new Title 24 requirements should the county’s circumstances change,” Reyman states.
Under BSCC regulations, Title 24 outlines minimum standards for local detention facilities.
Re-entry officers would be in charge of the care and transportation of youth that are in the county’s care, Reyman told supervisors on Aug. 8. The new positions also included a program coordinator who would manage juvenile and adult programs as well as a supervising deputy probation officer who would do case management for in-custody youth.