York County officials discuss prison renovations for juvenile detention center

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County officials say renovations that would allow for a juvenile detention center at York County Prison would cost about $1 million.

Engineer John Klinedinst, who oversaw a feasibility study for the project, said during a presentation before the county's Prison Board of Inspectors on Wednesday that it could be completed by January.

Youth Development Center Director Rodney Wagner said the county received verbal approval from the state to house eight individuals in the facility once it's completed. A waiver could extend that figure to 12. The county would need to complete the project, he said, before applying for a waiver.

"It mainly has to do with windows," Wagner said. "Every room has to have natural sunlight."

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Other facilities across the state, however, have applied for waivers for rooms without natural light and gotten them, Wagner added.

York County Prison in Springettsbury Township Monday, August, 24, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

Klinedinst said the estimated cost took into account the price range of the market at the time, which includes the higher-than-anticipated cost of another project at the prison. That project, the relocation of the county's central booking unit, cost a total of $5.7 million when approved by the Board of Commissioners earlier this month.

"It's not a very complicated project," Klinedinst said of the proposed juvenile facility. "It is our conclusion that yes, it is feasible."

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The area would be screened off from the rest of the prison and have its own external entrance so as to avoid other prison operations. It would, however, be connected to the rest of the prison through a sally port, a secure area with a series of locking doors.

"We don't get into the operations a lot, but one of the advantages of using a prison, for safety reasons, you have access to all of the prison," Klinedinst said. "If something goes south, or medical, or food, you're attached."

Funding discussed: The juvenile detention center was only up for discussion, and no vote was taken. However, there was discussion of funding. Tim Barker, York County First Assistant District Attorney, said there might be alternative funding sources the county should explore, perhaps as part of the prison's space allocation committee.

"The more we can do to offset without having to tap into the reserves, which there are a lot of monies out there for these initiatives," Barker said. "There's potential, not guarantees, but we should be exploring those and looking at that as a plan perhaps at a committee breakout."

First Assistant District Attorney Tim Barker speaks to media about recent shootings and discusses Operation Scarecrow, a multi-agency initiative that focuses on individuals who illegally purchase and possess firearms, during a press conference held outside the York City Police Department in York City, Friday, April, 2, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A potential juvenile detention center is one of several potential projects explored by the county in recent years, and President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said the county would need to prioritize which ones ultimately go forward.

"They're all great, but they're not all going to get done," Wheeler said.

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The project would first need approval from the Board of Inspectors before receiving approval from the county commissioners.

Central booking timeline: Klinedinst also reiterated his belief that the central booking project could be completed by the end of the year. That project includes not only relocating that function to the prison but also adding a women's locker room and expanding an armory as well as adding offices for probation. When asked by President Judge Maria Musti Cook if the supply chain could delay any part of that project, he said it's a possibility.

"Some of the HVAC equipment and the detention equipment, those are specialized things," Klinedinst said. "The sooner we can get the stuff ordered, the better."

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.