A proposal for a new Douglas County courthouse annex and juvenile detention center survived an effort by a former gung-ho supporter to stop part of it and slow down the rest of it.

In a contentious meeting Tuesday, the Douglas County Board rejected three resolutions proposed by board member Mike Boyle.

One would have rescinded the board’s previous vote to use the county’s eminent domain authority to acquire a downtown building for the project. Another would have postponed the project for more public discussion of options, including whether it should be put to a vote of the people. The third resolution was to renovate the county’s current juvenile detention center instead of building a new one.

The measures all failed 5-2. The vote on each was the same: Mary Ann Borgeson, Clare Duda, Chris Rodgers, P.J. Morgan and Marc Kraft voted no, and Boyle and Jim Cavanaugh voted yes.

The votes came after more than two hours of discussion, including a 15-minute presentation by an executive of prospective project architect HDR and 80 minutes of public comment.

As usual over the past few months, much of the public comment focused on the youth center portion of the project. But unlike past meetings, as many people supported building a new one downtown as opposed it.

And the commenters included the largest contingent of former detainees and family members of detainees that has spoken publicly on the issue.

Eric Burgin, a neighborhood association leader and grandfather of a person who has been sent to the current youth center, said he supports the official proposal 100 percent. He said it would be good for children in the juvenile justice system and their families, especially those from north or south Omaha.

Sammie Jackson said one of her four children went to the current county detention center over an incident involving a BB gun. She said he failed probation, went back to detention and ended up in a facility in Iowa, where he spent his 15th and 16th birthdays. He eventually straightened out.

Jackson said a new downtown youth center next to a building with juvenile courts and services would help families such as hers.

Leo Louis said he was detained 17 years ago as a teenager on a charge of which he was eventually cleared. He said it would be better for youths to be in a downtown detention center next door to court and services than to be transported in shackles from 42nd Street to the courthouse.

“I know what it’s like to wait for the paddy wagon, then wait three hours for the paddy wagon again,” Louis said.

Cary Mohiuddin had the opposite view. She said she was detained in the Douglas County Youth Center as a teenager more than 35 years ago on a status offense, related to running away. She eventually ended up in a facility in Geneva, Nebraska, which she said was depressing, but at least had nearby green space where the youths could walk outside three or four times a day.

The current Douglas County Youth Center location has space for that, said Mohiuddin, who went into social work. The proposed downtown site does not, and what’s worse, is near the Douglas County Jail.

“If I had to look at a county jail every day, it would have completely changed my path,” she said.

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Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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