Douglas County officials are in preliminary talks with owners of a potential site for a possible new juvenile justice center in downtown Omaha.
The Omaha-Douglas Public Building Commission had been scheduled to select a consultant Thursday to study space needs for the Douglas County Juvenile Court and related agencies. But the item was pulled off the Thursday meeting agenda. Instead, the commission voted to go into closed session to discuss real estate negotiations.
Commission members declined to identify the site. They said the talks are very preliminary. But they said they may have to change the study contract terms, which originally called for the consultant to examine potential sites.
The commission plans to call a special meeting in two weeks instead of waiting for its next monthly meeting, said Omaha City Councilwoman Aimee Melton, a member of the commission.
“We didn’t want to put this off another 30 days,” she said.
Clare Duda, a Douglas County Board member on the commission, said a possible site has been discussed and has generated interest.
“But it’s only a possible site,” he said. “There are some conversations going on to see if this is the site we want.”
The conversations involve county officials, the owner of the site and the judiciary, Duda said.
The commission and county and court officials say the Douglas County Juvenile Court has outgrown its space in the Douglas County Courthouse.
They say they have no room to permanently house a sixth Juvenile Court judge, who is expected to be named this fall.
The commission wants the consultant to study housing, under one roof, Juvenile Court judges, courtrooms, lawyers from the County Attorney’s and Public Defender’s Offices, sheriff’s deputies, and state government and nonprofit agencies that handle juvenile legal matters. Proponents want it to be in a building separate from adult court.
Melton, a former Douglas County prosecutor who practices family law, has been pressing for such a center for four years.
“I want this ball rolling now,” she said.