Rock County Youth Services Center to get outdoor recreational yard

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Thursday, May 8, 2014

JANESVILLE—A new recreational yard at the Rock County Youth Services Center could end up costing more than $500,000.

On Thursday, the Rock County Board passed a resolution approving a $444,000 contract with Corporate Contractors of Beloit for the 9,300 square-foot yard at the facility that houses a juvenile detention center and youth shelter. The vote was 24-1. Supervisor Brent Fox abstained due to possible conflicts of interest. Supervisor Ed Nash voted no.

There was very little discussion about the vote.

The yard will include paved areas for half-court basketball, six exercise stations, whiffleball, picnic table seating under an open-air pavilion, grassy areas and raised beds for gardens. The yard is expected to be used year round.

The idea for a recreation yard came in 2009 after an independent investigation by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said Phil Boutwell, deputy director of Rock County Human Services. The council recommended creating the outdoor space. Facilities in similar-sized counties have rec yards, Boutwell said.

The center serves two distinct groups: Juveniles who have been through the court system and youth who need shelter because foster care isn't available or cannot meet their needs. The second group is usually there for short-term stays, Boutwell said.

Recent changes in state law mean that juveniles that have been through the court system can end up in detention for up to a year.

Currently, there are no outdoor facilities at the center.

Total costs for the project include:

—Construction: $444,000.

—Construction material testing: $10,000.

—Contingency fund: $49,870.

—Architects services during construction: $7,400,

—Design work and bid specification development done in 2013 by Potter Lawson: $38,000.

If all of the contingency fund is used, the total cost of the project will be $549,270.

“The biggest expense is the fence,” said Boutwell.

Of the $444,000 of construction costs, “approximately three-quarters” will be used for the fence and security system changes.

The plans include a 20-foot high, -inch woven wire, steel fence. The top five feet of the fence will be canted inward.

Security cameras, special lighting and changes to the security doors leading out into the yard are part of the cost, too.

Because state law requires adult inmates to be visually screened from incarcerated juveniles, the lower 15-feet of the fence will be screened with black nylon mesh. Adult inmates from the Rock County Jail often work outside the building or in the community garden.

Why does the fence cost so much?

Boutwell said the fence is like a big sail.

To withstand wind or snow something that big requires a significant amount of anchoring, Boutwell said.

The yard will be used for programming for both groups housed at the service center, Boutwell said.

It will also provide a positive incentive for juveniles with behavioral problems.

“It's a privilege to get to go outside,” Boutwell said. “It helps improve behavior and helps out the whole atmosphere.”

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