Land Purchase Approved for Racine County Juvenile Detention Facility

Nov. 24, 2021 9:30p

(WGTD)---A long-discussed, regional juvenile detention center in Racine County is a step closer to reality.

The Racine County Board voted 16 to 3 this week to buy a tract of land in Caledonia near the Batten airport.

The Racine County Youth Development and Care Center would serve as many as 48 troubled young people from Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties, and several other counties in the region. The state would put up nearly the entire cost of building the center as it phases out statewide facilities. The complex would also replace an antiquated detention facility currently operated by Racine County.

Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave has been working on the project for three years. "This is a mandated service that we need to provide," Delagrave told the board Tuesday night. "And how we provide that to our at-risk youth shows us what kind of a county we are and what we strive to be," he said., 

The proposed site has been opposed by people who live nearby. Supervisor Kelly Kruse represents the area on the board and was one of the ‘no’ votes, telling her colleagues beforehand that she’s been contacted by hundreds of her constituents. Kruse said she realizes the new detention center is needed but added, "nobody wants this in their backyard. Let's be honest about that." 

Supervisor Robert Miller supported the land purchase. "At some point, I think we were all troubled youth...but most of us had strong adults who steered us in the right direction," Miller said. "This facility is for troubled youth who don't have those adults." He added that the facility will look more like a school or a medical clinic rather than a jail. 

The board vote to buy the land doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Various site feasibility studies need to be performed, including one that’ll measure the effects of noise and vibration from airport operations and from a nearby rail line. Also, the proposal will be scrutinized as it moves through the normal land use permitting process, something that will involve the Caledonia Village Board.