Stoddard County Juvenile Officer Mike Davis told the County Commission Monday that the announcement was "good news" for Stoddard County. He said it was the fulfillment of what was intended when the state took control of the juvenile detention system in 1999. The state stopped funding detention centers in Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff at the beginning of 2012. A total of six facilities lost state funding at that time. Juvenile detention centers in Stoddard County and Mississippi County remained funded, making them the only such facilities in Southeast Missouri. Both will receive additional state funding to hire employees under the new proposal.
The Budget Committee authorized the hiring of three new juvenile officers, five new detention aides and a superintendent of detention. Also, an additional cook and a clerical worker were approved. Judy Hampton will serve as superintendent of the facility.
"Having juvenile officers strictly for detention has never been done before," said Davis. "They will also act as shift supervisors."
Davis said it was determined that 16.5 employees were needed to adequately staff the detention facility as required by new federal guidelines. The Budget Committee action followed recommendations by the Juvenile Detention Standards Work Group. Davis said the county center could house up to 18 detainees based on a single bed per room. He said, due to federal guidelines, there will be no longer be "double bunking" in the center.
The Detention Center serves the 35th Circuit Court District which includes Dunklin County. It also houses detainees from Wayne County and the Division of Youth Services. The state pays wages for many of the employees, but Stoddard County also provides funding. Dunklin County pays an annual flat fee of $45,000 to house juvenile detainees at the center. Other counties, such as Cape Girardeau and Butler, negotiate on a case-by-case basis. Hampton said the facility housed 50 to 55 detainees from Butler County last year.
Davis praised county officials and the commission for their support of the detention facility through the years. He said the county stepped up and provided funding for a building to house the Detention Center and to keep it operating. He said the county facility is "secure and safe" for detainees and for the staff. He said that while the announcement from the
Circuit Court Budget Committee was positive for the county, it would take the continued support of the commission. He said he was asking that the local budget be maintained by the county through the "transition" period.
Commissioner Danny Talkington asked Davis whether any more districts have shown interest in using the county center. Davis said discussions had taken place with the West Plains District, as well as Cape Girardeau County. Hampton said those with contracts with the county are given priority over those who negotiate on a case-by-case basis. She said Cape primarily uses the facility in Charleston, which is also receiving additional state funds for employees. She said the increased staffing in Stoddard County would provide Cape with an alternative if needed.
"This a big deal for the county," said Presiding Commissioner Greg Mathis. He then asked Hampton if the facility met government standards and would meet future standards. Hampton said some areas could use a "face lift," but these areas were minor. Davis said the control room, door lock systems and technology were among the best for such a facility.
In other business, the commission received price quotes for property and liability insurance for the county. Jason Comfort and Alan Hedrick of Countywide Insurance attended the meeting to review the results with the commission.
Comfort said the county had a very bad year in terms of losses by the insurance company. The current provider is MO Rural at a cost of $108,128 per year, with a $400 fee. MO Rural did quote a price 20 percent higher than the current year, or $129,128 plus a $400 fee.
Due to the losses by the county, three companies declined to provide coverage. Those companies were Employers Mutual Casualty, Travelers, and MO Fire Pak. Comfort said the only other company submitting a bid was MOPERM. Their quote was higher than that of MO Rural, and they wanted a $50,000 law enforcement deductible.
There was a brief discussion about the insurance company settling many lawsuits that perhaps could have been won if taken to court. Comfort said the company had to look at whether it would be more profitable for them to reach a negotiated settlement, or spend the money to pursue it in court. Often the answer is to negotiate a settlement rather than pay high legal fees and court costs.
Mathis asked what would happen if no company was willing to offer the county liability insurance. Hedrick said there were other ways, but it would put the county in a higher risk pool, which would be more expensive. He noted that even with the losses, MO Rural was still willing to insure the county.
County Clerk Joe Watson was asked when the renewal date was for the property/liability insurance. He said it must be renewed by Feb. 1, 2013. The commission took no action.
The meeting opened with all but two of the elected county officials present. Mathis said he asked them to be present to start the year on a different note. The group recited the Pledge or Allegiance, followed by a prayer from Jack Norman for the country and those elected to serve.