Saturday, May 10, 2008

More adults needed at Juvvy

More adults needed at Juvie
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Willows — A dozen empty beds.

That could be the situation at juvenile hall soon without more money to fund another counselor, as juvenile hall guards are called, Chief Probation Officer Brandon Thompson told supervisors Tuesday. He was asked for general fund money to prevent that emptying of rooms, as cells in juvvy are called.

During daytime hours, the facility is required to have one adult supervising every 10 detainees; that would cap the population at 10, given current staffing levels.

That “would have a huge public safety impact,” Chief Thompson said.

Supervisors weren’t happy that the proposal would take general fund money in an already tight budget, and raised their eyebrows at another agenda item requesting a transfer of money from salary to supplies, support, and care.

Still, they ultimately gave Officer Thompson what he wanted.

One supervisor asked, “What’s to prevent other departments with coming up with (other) expenses?”

“We’re not requesting things we want,” Mr. Thompson replied. “We absolutely need this.”

Supervisors seemed to go along with that claim, noting department understaffing and the 400-person caseloads of probation officer. Mr. Thompson chimed in, pointing out that he will have less than $5,000 next year for office supplies and only $2,000 for gas.

Supervisor Tracey Quarne, who spent the four-hour open session meeting repeatedly querying department heads about their funding sources, expressed frustration at the general situation.

“Earlier in the meeting because there was no general fund impact, we hired five people,” Mr. Quarne said. “This is just frustrating.”

Tuesday’s meeting spent an abundance of time on small details.

Mr. Quarne pulled a reimbursement to a probation officer for a flat tire off the consent agenda because of a $10 difference in money, an item the board spent more than five minutes on.

Planning and Public Works head Dan Obermeyer and assistant deputy director Randy Murphy spent several minutes in front of a packed house asking for a transfer of water rights from the Orland airport that might yield as little as $160.

The board also spent about 20 minutes haggling over when to schedule a special meeting to discuss possible additions to the budget; department heads have requested $555,000 over and above balanced budget allocations.

After debating conflicts with LAFCO, education, and other meetings and the nature of the proposed meeting, the meeting was set for 10:30 a.m. next Tuesday.

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