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MORE STATE AID POSSIBLE FOR NEW YOUTH JAIL

Erie County is preparing to break ground on a high-security youth detention center that will cost as much as $16 million. However, the facility may be in line for more state support than was originally sought.

The state is considering a funding request from the county for $8 million, but may come up with as much as $2 million to $4 million more than that, Giambra administration officials said Friday. That could lessen the county's $8 million share of the project, officials said.

"It would be less that county taxpayers would have to fund," said Deputy County Executive Carl J. Calabrese.

The county is in a hurry to build the new center since the state has cracked down, citing poor conditions at the existing Youth Detention Center on East Ferry Street, Calabrese said.

"We need to move this project forward. The state is watching this very carefully," he said.

The new center will be different from the existing facility because it will be designed only for youths requiring a high level of security, not for those children classified as "persons in need of supervision" by the courts. Those PINS children are being shifted by the county into group homes run by community organizations and faith-based groups.

The existing East Ferry Street complex will be demolished soon, with a groundbreaking on the new complex at the same site set for this fall, said Maria C. Lehman, county public works commissioner. Construction should be wrapped up by the end of next year, she said.

Demolition work, which will cost an estimated $450,000, was approved unanimously by the County Legislature this week.

"Everything's being fast-tracked," said Lehman. "The sooner we get this done, the better."

In the Legislature, Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples said that lawmakers will consider a proposal from the Giambra administration to buy adjoining land on East Ferry Street at a committee meeting next week.

The parcel of land, 2.3 acres next to the existing site, would be purchased from Buffalo Technologies for $150,000 under the Giambra administration proposal. The extra land would not be built on, but would be used for green space and recreation areas for the new detention center, said Lehman.

Peoples said the focus of the project should now turn to the programs and educational opportunities that will be offered to the young inmates of the new center, once it opens.

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