Law enforcement agencies in the county will soon receive a letter from Juvenile Court Judge Charles Hague advising them that Sept. 30 will be the last day the Youth Detention Center will accept juvenile offenders.
Hague said Tuesday he was drafting the letter as his court begins the process of shutting down the center in early October. The judge is taking the “unprecedented” move in response to the Board of Commissioner’s last round of appropriation cuts, which reduced the YDC’s general-fund budget to $617,044.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you don’t have enough money to make it through the end of the year you can’t keep it open,” Hague said.
“I think it’s a very sad day for Ashtabula County,” said Commissioner Daniel Claypool, who has a background in safety services. However, based upon the county’s tight financial situation, Claypool said there’s nothing else the commissioners can do to fund the YDC this year.
The judge threatened legal action against the commissioners earlier this year when they attempted to cut his appropriations in April. The two sides agreed to non-binding arbitration and worked out an agreement that restored slightly more than half of the money commissioners intended to take away because of declining county revenue.
Several weeks after reaching the agreement, the county’s budget commission again revised downward the county’s revenue projections, forcing commissioners to reduce Hague’s Juvenile and Probate court budgets, as well as that of the YDC. Hague feels commissioners broke their agreement with him.
“Why would I want to be inclined to negotiate any more with people who have no credibility? I spent a month-and-a-half negotiating and we reached what I thought was a good faith agreement. But a few weeks later, it was, ‘No judge, the cow jumped over the moon so our agreement is not an agreement,’” Hague said.