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Commissioners Hear Details of a Sales Tax to Fund Juvenile Detention Center & Carthage Courthouse Upgrades

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Joplin, MO -

Jasper County commissioners and some residents are hearing a pitch from architects for a new "juvenile justice center." And improvements to the courthouse in Carthage. Funding the projects would mean a sales tax increase.

“About two dollars and fourteen cents a month per household."

L.J. Hart financing experts explained the cost and benefits of a quarter cent sale tax to pay for a new juvenile just center. Planners say the county would save two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in interest by financing the total cost of fifteen million dollars in two phases.

Commissioner Darieus Adams agrees with the idea.  "I think it’s very fair. I think fifteen million is a doable number. Also, in my opinion, would be we need to look at the two phase financing to let our local banks compete.  I think that would be a very important piece."

County commissioners need to decide by next Tuesday to put a tax on the April ballot.

It would pay for a ten million, eight hundred thousand dollar juvenile justice center to be built downtown by tearing down the old one.

Erik Theis, the court administrator says, "It’s dilapidated. It’s inadequate. It doesn’t meet our needs. It doesn't meet ADA regulations."

It failed inspections and can’t house juveniles overnight as is required of a first class county.

Plans include purchasing adjoining property and the First Baptist Church south of the courthouse to be used during construction and later as the county wishes.

All plans include a detention center on the north end with offices and rooms for therapeutic prevention programs offered after school. And all include courtyards.

The choice to keep it downtown was made because it was considered the most accessible

Theis says, "The vast majority of the folks we deal with are of a poor socio- economic background. They don’t have the resources to travel to a different location."

Architect Daniel Rowe says after studying other possible locations in Carthage, between Joplin and Carthage, and on 32nd street, "We realized it would move away from that core group of kids and families who are served by these programs. And have the possibility of reducing the numbers of kids who could be served and thus would be increasing your detention numbers. Detention, the most expensive program you would run."

The plans displayed are just for the juvenile justice campus in the downtown area but improvements to the Carthage courthouse would also be part of a sales tax.

Rowe says, "Two point nine million dollars will cover mechanical, electrical, and plumbing upgrades so they'll get a new geothermal system so you won’t have window air conditioning units staining the exterior stone."

Citizens will have to be willing to say yes to a sales tax to make that happen.

     Architects say there wasn't a consensus now on dealing with space issues at the Joplin courthouse.

     Those would be dealt with in a "phase-2" plan which could entail the demolition of the First Baptist church and construction of a new courthouse on 7th street.

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