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County considers space for reporting center
January 25, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Scotts Bluff County Commissioners heard a number of options for housing the county’s probation reporting center.
State statute requires the county to provide space for the local probation employees and the reporting center, which is used to provide rehabilitative services that help keep low risk offenders out of jail.

Linda Buehler, District 12 Chief Probation Officer, discussed three options with the county board. One would move the reporting office into the County Administrative Building. However, that would require added security, as the center is used throughout the day and into the evening.

The second option was to remodel the old county jail west of the courthouse. The drawback is that it would cost an estimated $1 million to remodel that building.

A third option would have the county purchase the east building of the former Aurora Loan Services (ALS) on the Beltline Highway. That would cost in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. Additional remodeling would also be required.

Buehler said the former ALS building would provide adequate space for all the center’s needs, from classrooms to computer labs to a kitchen.

Buehler said she as been investigating grant opportunities to help pay for the building. She’s also been in contact with about seven other agencies that might be willing to rent parts of the building. Those agencies provide ancillary services to the reporting center, such as substance abuse, psychological and family counseling. One business also provides substance abuse training to people who want to work in the field.

“If there’s some way we can make this work, I will do whatever I can to help,” said Commissioner Ken Meyer. “But we have to figure out another way to get this done without taking away from other needed county services.”

Commissioner Mike Marker told Buehler the major hurdles would be the cost of acquiring and remodeling the building. However, with continuing tight budgets, the county would have difficulty financing the entire cost.

Marker encouraged Buehler to talk with all the interested agencies and get ballpark figures as to the level of support they could offer. After that figure is determined, the county could hire someone to inspect the building to estimate remodeling costs. Then, the building owners should be contacted to see what kind of financing arrangements could be worked out.

Before going into executive session for union negotiations, the board heard a short report from Carol Prince, director of building and grounds about the fire that broke out in the basement of the Administrative Building on Jan. 16.

Prince said a step-up transformer exploded, causing lots of sparking and melted wiring. No fire broke out, but the Gering Fire Department did respond.

Chance Florke, director of information systems for the county, was in the room when the transformer exploded and was able to get a warning out immediately.

The building was closed for the remainder of the day and reopened on Thursday. The county is still determining the cost of the damage for insurance purposes.
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