Tulsa County is again considering property in north Tulsa to locate its new Juvenile Justice Center eight months after a similar effort was shot down following an intense backlash from nearby residents.
Possible locations for the new Juvenile Justice Center are scheduled to be discussed during the County Commission’s regular meeting at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
The proposed $40 million facility would house most of the county’s juvenile operations, including a 60-bed detention center. The funding comes from a 0.04 percent sales tax approved by voters in 2014. A bond to fund the project was approved by the County Commission in March.
The Tulsa County Commission has eyed the 57-acre property to locate the new facility since late 2015; it is located near the intersection of 36th Street N. and Martin Luther King Blvd.
However, the framework of the deal hit a roadblock at the commission’s Oct. 5 meeting after north Tulsa residents, along with some city and state elected officials from the area, protested the move, saying locating the facility in the area would hinder other forms of development and help reinforce other Tulsa residents’ stigma about north Tulsa.
Community members and elected leaders also said they had not been consulted or informed about the county’s plans, leaving little time and opportunity for feedback about locating the center there.
On Friday, Michael Willis, chief deputy for County Commissioner Karen Keith, said the north Tulsa property was one of three properties the county is set to discuss during executive session on Monday. Willis said he could not disclose the location of the other two properties under consideration for the Juvenile Justice Center.
“We have two really good ones that have a lot of potential. I think we’re in hopes we’ll be able to get into some contract negotiations on one or more sites,” Willis said.
Willis said commissioners were approached by several members of the community about reconsidering locating the new juvenile center on the property, but that no decision has been made.
“We have been approached by a group of folks who are ‘representing’ the area up there who are interested in us having another look at it and potentially figuring out a way to make it work,” Willis said.
Although some internal discussions have occurred at the county offices about the property, Willis said a number of issues would have to be worked through first, especially the potential fallout from neighborhood residents.
Willis said the coalition of community members asking for reconsideration of the site included ministers from the area, Tulsa Eagle newspaper publisher Jim Goodwin, and public relations specialist Jerry Goodwin.
Messages left by Oklahoma Watch for Jim Goodwin and Jerry Goodwin were not returned by press time.
Marq Lewis, founder of the Tulsa group We the People Oklahoma, said relations between north Tulsa residents and Tulsa County are already strained by the shooting death of Eric Harris by Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates in 2015.
We the People Oklahoma was one of the driving forces seeking to oust longtime Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz following the shooting. Glanz stepped down in late 2015 after a grand jury investigation.
“They (the county) tried to tell the community ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do for you’ last year,” Lewis said. “The community stood up and said, ‘We do not want this in our community.’ As a group and organization, we back the community.”
Should the county move forward on locating the juvenile center at the property without the community’s approval, the reaction would likely be the same, Lewis said.
“That is something I guarantee you the community is going to completely not like at all,” Lewis said. “I think they will take offense to it because they’ve already said, ‘We do not want this.’ I hope they (the county) will not do this.”