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County board will soon decide on lease with juvenile center

Otter Tail County is among 11 counties that are served by the West Central Regional Juvenile Center in north Moorhead. Tom Hintgen/Otter Tail County Correspondent.

Otter Tail County, which currently contracts for 4.5 beds per day at the West Central Regional Juvenile Center in Moorhead, will need to soon decide on a 20-year lease agreement.

"That's due, in part, for plans which call for doubling the capacity of the facility," said Desta Lutzwick, county probation director, to members of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

The juvenile center in Moorhead functions as a coed 32-bed facility, as well as 15-bed non-secure care program. Services are for juveniles with behavioral, protection, dependency and delinquency issues

Member counties include Otter Tail, Cass, Clay, Becker, Wilkin, Wadena, Traverse, Grant, Douglas, Todd and Stevens. All of the counties are in Minnesota with the exception of Cass County which is in North Dakota.

"Unless we as a county decide to construct a juvenile center of our own and hire employees, being part of the juvenile center in Clay County in Moorhead is our best option," said County Board Chairman Doug Huebsch of Perham.

However, Commissioner Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids believes that options should still be pursued prior to Otter Tail County committing to a 20-year lease agreement.

"In the end, the Clay County option may indeed be our best option," said Johnson, "but let's look at all options before we agree to the current proposal."

Commissioner Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls said he would like to see the juvenile center in Moorhead fall under leadership of a joint powers board, similar to what is done with the refuse burner in Perham.

Otter Tail and four other counties own the refuse facility in Perham.

The juvenile center mission statement includes "providing a safe, secure setting for juveniles who are in need of out of home placement. Dignity, self-worth and responsibility are encouraged and developed."

Varied and active programs include education, recreation and counseling.

"Secure placement needs have increased due to the complicated issues that are present in our youth," said Lutzwick. "There are more mental health and chemical dependency issues and we're seeing a younger and more aggressive population."

The cost is $83,500 per bed on a yearly basis which may seem costly.

"However, this is more cost effective for county taxpayers compared to Otter Tail County having its own juvenile center," said Board Chairman Huebsch.