LIMA — Allen County’s new $7 million juvenile detention center was formally opened Wednesday morning with a throng of dignitaries, elected officials and members of the public on hand for the ceremonies.
Allen County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Derryberry said the pristine new structure, located at 3050 N. Cole St. near the intersection of Cole Street and Diller Road, will allow local officials to best carry out the “overriding purposes of providing for the care, protection and development of our children, protecting the public’s safety and rehabilitating the offender.”
Derryberry said the goals of accountability and rehabilitation of young offenders “are not mutually exclusive; we can accomplish both of those goals.”
The judge said the new JDC facility is much more than a warehouse for juvenile delinquents.
“We believe young people can be redeemed,” Derryberry said. “Maybe we can’t rehabilitate every offender, but we can try. We have a responsibility to try.
“With this facility we reaffirm our belief that our children can be redeemed, and we reaffirm our commitment to try,” the judge said. “This building tells us something about who we are as a community.”
Ryan Gies, director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, said the new JDC is a “tremendous example” of how state and local governments can work together.
“Three years ago I met with local officials to talk about the needs of the juvenile court here in Allen County,” Gies said. “And today we dedicate this facility. It emphasizes that the state has got to work together with local government. We can’t make communities stronger without that partnership.”
Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg said conversations actually started in 2014 “when we got a grant to study our situation.” He said a state grant covered approximately 50% of construction costs. Local funding from Allen County totaled $3.4 million.
“We have a facility to be very proud of,” Begg said.
Juvenile Court Administrator Berlin Carroll presented the court’s Jean Ann Patton Commitment to Youth Award to two men he said were crucial to the project. Recognized were Don Bonifas, project manager with general contractor Peterson Construction of Wapakoneta, and Dana Sterling, Allen County’s projects manager.
The new juvenile detention center was opened to the public for informal tours at the completion of Wednesday’s ceremony.
The building has more space, about five times as much, than does the county’s current detention center, which was built in 1975. The new facility houses roughly the same number of juveniles as does the current site, with 26 beds.
That new 20,000 square-foot space includes multiple classrooms, administrative offices, lobby, an intake area, a large laundry space, a medical office, a multi-purpose gym, an outside green space and the holding cells, which are located in two separate areas connected by interior counseling rooms.
Juvenile courtrooms will remain at the court’s current Wardhill Avenue location until such time that all county courts can be situated in a centralized site — presumably the courthouse — sometime in the future.