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Westmoreland's juvenile inmates bound for Cambria facility

Westmoreland County could spend thousands of dollars this year to house juvenile detainees during a nearly $4.5 million renovation of the juvenile detention center.

Commissioners on Thursday are poised to sign off on a deal to pay Cambria County to house the juveniles during the year-long construction project.

The deal calls for Westmoreland County to pay $185 per day for every juvenile moved to Cambria County. A companion deal calls for the county to pay $195 a day for juveniles housed in a shelter program for runaways and truants.

Westmoreland County bills $264 a day to other counties to house juvenile detainees in the Hempfield facility.

"In order for us to get the renovations moving we're going to have to juggle. This is a contingency plan," said Adeline Beighley, director of the juvenile detention center.

Juveniles are housed in the 30-year-old Regional Youth Services Center in Hempfield, which has capacity for 24 minors.

The county earlier this year broke ground to renovate the structure. The project will update and enlarge office space for juvenile probation workers and improve common areas of the detention facility. An energy-efficient heating and cooling system will be installed.

Beighley said the juvenile inmates will have to be relocated at various times during the renovations.

"It's going to be a day-to-day thing. There will never be a time when our doors are closed," Beighley said.

The juvenile population at the county facility has rarely approached capacity. As a result, the deal with Cambria County becomes the first in which Westmoreland County has had to send juvenile offenders to another jurisdiction for housing.

Beighley said it is unclear just how many juveniles will be relocated and what the final cost will be.

Budget Director Jody Keating said the deal will be paid for from the county's general fund and not from money, borrowed in 2003, that is being used to pay for the renovation.

Keating said 50 percent of the costs to house juvenile offenders will be reimbursed by the state. The county is eligible to receive a 90 percent reimbursement for youths sent to Cambria's emergency shelter program.

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