MINOT — Ward County Commissioners decided Tuesday to not purchase a new building for housing delinquents and children in need of short-term shelter, resulting in Youthworks having to consider alternative options for continuing their services in Minot.
“The current space that we utilize, which Ward County has generously provided at no cost, Mrs. Frederick and I feel like the space is not adequate enough to meet certification standards without pretty significant adjustments,” explained Youthwork’s Program Manager Emily Yanish.
The current facility owned by the county is not capable of separating two types of youth, now that certain juveniles with a higher level of delinquency will not be sentenced to jail according to the recent legislation tied to HB 1091.
The level of separation will require additional staff to make sure that the different categories of youth do not cross paths at the shelter.
In a 2/3 vote, the two votes for being from Commissioners Shelly Weppler and John Pietsch, the commission denied the purchase of a new property to possibly “lease to buy” to Youthworks.
Voting no, Commissioner Howard Anderson said he felt Youthworks should “carry the burden and leadership” in moving forward with providing emergency, short-term shelter care for youth, but that he was open to offering financial support should the need arise.
“We’ll ride second on this, and I think we’ll stand behind you from what I hear from my fellow commissioners, but I’ll vote no,” said Chairman Jim Rostad.
“I’m going to vote no on this, and it isn’t because I don’t care about the children,” explained Commissioner John Fjeldahl. “I want to understand the program and the need of the children, the facilities, and how far this goes,” he said, after expressing concerns that the requirements made by the state have created “a moving target.”
Replying to Fjeldahl’s comment, Weppler said, “Commissioner Fjeldahl mentioned in the meeting that ‘it’s been a moving target forever,’ and it always will be. We are talking about people and people’s needs.”
Whatever route the two parties decide to take, in order to maintain legal short-term shelter care for children, the chosen facility will need to meet certified standards by August 2022.