Fate of Children's Detention Center Unclear

Fate of Children's Detention Center Unclear

Costco project forcing center's move, but the county doesn't yet have a plan in place.
The developer of a new Costco store would like to demoliton of the Monroe County Children's Detention Center within the next three to four weeks. There's one problem - children still live there.

The county is scrambling to find a new location for the detention center, but it's a complicated process. An average of a couple dozen children are housed at the Westfall Rd. facility every day. They stay an average of 20 to 25 days while their cases make their way through court. They're too young for adult jails.

The county has long wanted to replace the detention center because it is aging. The county has identified its preferred new location - the Industry campus in Rush - which houses children found to have committed offenses. There are several unused buildings on the site. Locating at Industry offers the county some opportunities to consolidate services.

But getting the Industry buildings ready will take time. The county has to make arrangements to buy or lease the property. Final cost estimates are not in, but it will be in the millions of dollars. The state and county will share the cost.

One thing is certain, the county will not be able to get a new site ready in a few weeks. The transition will take a year.

"Even if we were to purchase tomorrow, by the time we were able to rehab it, I don't know that we're going to meet that deadline," said Deputy County Executive Dan Delaus. "So the other thing that we're going to have to look at is some stopgap measure that we're going to have to use. The realistic possibilities there would be relocating children out of Monroe County."

Transferring children to Onondaga or Erie counties could pose a hardship for the children and their families. It could also be more difficult for their lawyers to reach them. Finally, it would cost Monroe County money.

Andre Vitale, an assistant public defender, worries about what will happen to the children's detention center staff. He has represented several children housed there.

"The main concern that I would have is you've got a staff there that works very well with one another. They've got a good cohesiveness. They've got a good support structure and they really care about the kids," Vitale said. "During that temporary transition period you never know where these staff may go. They may go to other jobs."

The state has to give final approval to whatever the county decides. The talks have already started. It's not yet clear how any holdup will impact the Costco project.

"I think what it's going to take really, is a big meeting with a lot of people with knowledge and decision making to be in the room," said Delaus.
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