A boys correctional facility could close as Sedgwick county officials try to close a $9.5 million shortfall. Supporters of the idea say it could save the county $2 million, but opponents say sending those children elsewhere has hidden costs.
“The young men that typically go to the boys ranch are right on the edge of either using it and an opportunity to turn their life around or going down the wrong path,” said former ranch resident Nate Davis.
The boys who live there don't leave until their behavior changes. Nate davis is 28 now, but 14 years ago he lived here. It was his last stop before serving time in a juvenile facility.
“It was a definitely a learning experience,” said Davis.
At the ranch kids take classes and learn job skills aimed at changing their behavior. Davis says he's proof it works.
“If there's any way to save the ranch it needs to be done,” said Davis.
Sedgwick county estimates closing it could save up to $2 million a year. In the face of a $9.5 million budget shortfall the county manager could make the recommendation in mid July.
Senator Dick Kelsey said these cost cutting measures could have the opposite effect.
“The medical costs alone will eat the county's lunch. Whoever did the math, didn't do good math,” said Kelsey.
The county argues against him, saying the building needs $2.5 million in repairs and it would cost more than $14 million to built a new one. Senator Kelsey maintains closing it is still not the answer.
“If this closes they're just going to end up in detentions and we're basically putting them on the path to a life in crime. We're going to be supporting them in prisons for many years to come,” said Kelsey.
County commissioner Dave Unruh says another option is to lay off 160 more county employees. He says the county is already lean after cutting 200 last year. The county manager is expected to make his recommendation in mid July.