TEXARKANA, Ark. — After spending nearly two hours discussing the county juvenile detention center's future, one thing became obvious to the Miller County Quorum Court Thursday: More discussion will be needed next week.
Justice of the Peace Ernest Pender said that while the city of Texarkana, Arkansas, did help pay for the Lantz Lurry Juvenile Detention Center at least as far as into the late 1990s, he told the rest of the court that the city notified him that it didn't have the money available to restart payments at all.
"We are really going to have to take a hard look at our finances and look at perhaps putting the building to other use," Pender said. "It's basically a solid building, but it has started to run down on the inside in recent years."
Justice of the Peace John Haltom and other JPs said the center has been able to hold out-of-state juveniles in recent years, but the county wasn't able to continue that this year largely because of COVID-19
Presently, the center is holding just six juvenile offenders, but it's able to hold up to 14 and has held as many as 32 when it was new back in 1995. The JDC has 22 employees and costs the county about $1.2 million to operate annually.
Pender and other JPs suggested that the building could be used to house the county's Office of Emergency Services, as well as serve as a sub-office for the county coroner.
"We don't want to abandon the building. We are looking at putting it to alternate use if we can," Pender said.
However, Justice of the Peace Jimmy Cowart said he believes it will take time and careful thought before a decision on the building's future use could be determined, adding he believed it would be a mistake to just close the center down.
"I don't want us to just rush into making any decision just yet," he said.
"We want the best for Miller County and that means coming up with rational ways to find solutions," he said.
Miller County Judge Cathy Harrison said most other county JDCs in Arkansas are under the sheriff's office.
Following some additional discussion, the Quorum Court agreed to resubmit the issue back to committee study next week.