MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — Officials broke ground Friday on extensive renovations and additions to Calhoun County’s youth center in Marshall, where juveniles are detained and wait for court proceedings.
The Calhoun County Youth Center’s roots go back more than six decades to 1957, when the structure was simply a group home.
“It’s just time for an upgrade,” Tori Benden, director of the youth center, said. “We are a … maximum security detention facility. It’s just time that we upgraded from 1957 and give it a homier feel for the youth that are coming through the doors.”
Renovations will apply to almost three-quarters of the existing building, and additions will nearly double its square footage.
Up until this point, the youth center had rooms with multiple uses for the kids and their visitors.
“The visitation areas are also where the kids will eat their lunch and dinner. The doctor’s office is also the courtroom and staff bathroom,” Benden explained. “So, we will have dedicated spaces with this new building that will be just the medical office, just the visitation area.”
The same applies to staff, who currently do not have a dedicated break room.
“They are with the kids nearly all day,” Benden said. “If they want to take a break, sometimes they can go outside, but there’s really not a dedicated space away from the kids where they can decompress.”
The additions also bring 10 more detention beds, which are crucially needed. According to Benden, the youth center receives seven to 10 calls every day from Calhoun County and 23 other Michigan counties. She believes it is a symptom of a statewide shortage of detention beds.
“Not every county has their own detention facility,” Benden said. “So, we’re hoping by expanding our facility and our bed space … we can help out those other counties to improve community safety by housing and lodging their youth that need to be in detention at our facility.”
“We’ve turned away outside youth before, because we just want to make sure that we have space reserved for the children of Calhoun County if we need it,” added Steve Frisbie, who serves as vice chair for the Calhoun County Commission.
Funding for the $13 million project came from bonds approved by county commissioners and passed by county voters last year.
Costs are expected to be offset by federal grants and energy efficiency measures.
“As a matter of fact, we have guarantees that if they don’t achieve the energy savings that we’re expected to get, they write checks to us to cover that,” Frisbie explained.
Benden says work is expected to be finished by November 2024.