Bid to remake campus into juvenile facility fails

The Nye County School District Board of Trustees voted against a proposed non-secure juvenile detention facility at the former Mt. Charleston Elementary School.

This month, the board heard a presentation from Nye County Juvenile Probation Officer Tom Metscher about the issue which came about after the closure of the juvenile detention facility in Hawthorne due to a shortfall in revenues.

Metscher said housing juvenile offenders in Pahrump would have been a good option, but he understood the board’s decision.

He also noted that many of the juvenile offenders that are housed were from the Pahrump area which also led to the closure of the Hawthorne facility.

“Obviously with the outcome, there were voices of concern from the residents in that community and from the school board. It did not materialize but that was the emphasis at the time. Hawthorne closed last month because they have been dependent on Nye County as a revenue source for the holding of our kids. Over the past few years we have instituted some community based programs with the goal of reducing costs and other rehabilitative measures to try and work with more kids in the community instead of housing them in a facility that’s several hundred miles away. The combination of new programs and other resources put to use has resulted in lower detention numbers,” he said.

Nye County School District Superintendent Dale Norton said he was confident the board made the right decision on the matter.

He also commended those who provided public comment, many of which were residents living near the former elementary school.

“I can understand the concerns of the citizens living in that community and I applaud them because they didn’t turn the issue into a fiasco. They were very professional, they stated their opinions in a very nice way and I respect their opinions,” he said.

Had the board voted to approve the item, Norton said he would have still stood by their decision.

Norton lamented that something must be done with the campus that has remained vacant for several years.

“I do whatever the board asks me to do. Whatever decision they made, we follow it out and do what we have to do. I would like to try and find something for that campus that we could lease to someone to get some action. We are not really in a position to sell it because it is deeded to us and we would have to take the deed restriction off. It’s my understanding that it is quite costly to do that for the deed restriction,” he said.

Zoning ordinances were a big topic of discussion during the board meeting.

Local resident Gerald Smith is a longtime resident of the neighborhood where the campus sits.

He was one of many locals who were staunchly against housing juvenile offenders near his home which is adjacent to Lakeview Executive Golf Course.

“We just didn’t like the idea of bringing any kind of a detention facility in the neighborhood. It just wasn’t good for property values. I was extremely surprised by it all and the fact that nobody contacted the residents of this neighborhood. It just wasn’t the right fit for the area. Amargosa Valley would be a better place to have that type of facility. All of the neighbors that I have talked to were against it. One guy was going to cancel his surgery to see that this didn’t happen. That’s how upset we all were. Criminals are criminals and if one of them decides to leave there, he will take refuge in one of the homes in the area. Even the federal detention facility is on the outskirts of town,” he said.

At present, the juveniles that were housed in Hawthorne are now inmates at a facility in Fallon.

Metscher said he is working to find another location in southern Nye County.

“Right now we are still in the works with trying to get a facility agreement and moving forward with the Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley. That was discussed at a county commissioners meeting in August so we still have the wheels in motion. There may also be some opportunities even with Clark County with our secure higher risk kids. We may be able to get even closer to home by accessing Clark County resources which have just recently opened up. I will know more about that in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

In early 2011, trustees voted to close Mt. Charleston Elementary at the end of the school year.

Declining enrollment and a shrinking budget prompted the unanimous decision which saved the district more than $700,000 a year.