Funds may be available for Upshur juvenile center
by Troy Graham
    CHARLESTON — Local officials and senators are confident that money will be available to convert the former Upshur County jail into a 25-bed juvenile detention center, even though the fate of the project will not be officially decided until lawmakers hammer out the state budget next week.
    State officials also appear to be confident. They placed nine former Upshur County correctional officers on the state payroll March 1 and began training them as juvenile detention center guards two weeks ago, said Upshur County Administrator William A. Parker. “We felt that was an indication that they were willing to proceed with the project,” he said.
    Sen. Mike Ross, who has been spearheading the drive to fund the detention center, was also optimistic. He expects $400,000 in supplemental funds to be appropriated to run the center until the end of this fiscal year on June 30. Ross, D-Randolph, also expects a little more than $1 million to be put into the state Department of Corrections’ budget for the center in the next fiscal year.
    Federal money is also available to make the necessary renovations to the jail, Parker said.
But Sen. William Sharpe, the vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the conference committee that will hash out the budget next week, said it’s too early to tell if the money will be available.
    “It’s tough. I can’t remember a year that was tougher for money,” said Sharpe, D-Lewis. “If it’s there, we’ll get it.”
Ross, however, said the center may help to save the state money. Many juveniles offenders must be held in expensive out-of-state facilities because of overcrowding, he said. “This will enable us to bring some of them back,” he said.
    The center, if it opens, would be the first to serve North Central West Virginia. The closest juvenile detention center is in Parkersburg.
Also in the Legislature Friday:
    Both the House and Senate have approved a bill that will allow the Upshur County Board of Education to hold a levy vote on May 15. The five-year levy, if approved, would raise $1.4 million annually for the cash-strapped school system.
    The Upshur board had planned to cut costs by closing two elementary schools until strong public opposition arose. Instead, the board, which is in a deficit, decided to float a new levy. Voters there have defeated several levies in recent years. Because levy rates had already been set, the board had to seek the permission of the Legislature to hold the vote.


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