Detention center opens

A ceremony to officially dedicate the Island County Juvenile Detention Center took place Thursday in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

The project was completed under budget at a price tag of approximately $6.2 million and was a culmination of seven years of effort from mandate to completion.

Construction of the 15,600-square-foot facility began with groundbreaking in February of 2005. The job was completed this March.

For those who took part in the ceremony it was mainly a chance to thank the collective efforts of countless people who helped make the project a reality.

The project, funded by an increased sales tax, did not have an easy road.

“A certain area of the population did not want the center for philosophical reasons,” Sheriff Mike Hawley remembered. Some thought that juveniles should not be confined. In the past, the county’s juvenile offenders were driven to mainland detention centers.

When put to a vote on the one-tenth of one cent sales tax increase, the majority of county citizens supported the project.

“None of it would have happened if the community hadn’t supported it,” Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said, expressing the popular view that the detention center will be good for kids.

“I hope and pray that young people will come out and integrate themselves back into society a different way,” Shelton said.

The hope for rehabilitation ranks highest among the many people involved in the project in terms of why they stayed committed to the center.

Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill echoed Shelton’s comments, saying, “We hope to help the troubled youth.” She went on to say that judicially the new center gives judges more options than before, but, “We will not try to fill this building up.”

For the staff of the new center it was also a forum to be introduced to the public. From nurses, corrections officers, and educational staff to administration, it takes over 25 personnel to operate and maintain the facility. It was with pride and excitement that the corrections officers introduced themselves one by one.

Officers include Denise Bowden, Jake Carlyle, April Coffman, Ken DeLano, Claudia Lisenby, David Marquis, Greg Oldham, Michael Powell, Matt Shehi, Harold Shreve, Debra Smith, Gina Sterling, Fred Swayzer and Rob Wallace.

The corrections officers themselves have put in a lot of time and effort in helping to get the facility ready to open. Center Manager Gerald Murphy acknowledged their many hours of work and preparation and spoke about his enthusiasm and pride in both the new facility and his officers.

Murphy thanked the officers for taking a hands-on attitude with the new systems, from training to their uniforms. “They are the best dressed staff in the state,” he said.

The building contains two levels. The first floor holds administrative and program spaces and mechanical and electrical rooms. The second floor and mezzanine levels are dedicated to the detention program. It has a 21-bed capacity and includes space for exercise, education and health care.

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