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Sep 30, 2009 6:46 PM by Kate Mundy

I-49 Site Proposed for Juvenile Offender Facility

Thursday, the St. Landry Parish Council will decide if the state can build a facility for youth offenders in the parish.

Some residents who live near available parish property have been saying not in my backyard. Many residents off the airport highway have even started a petition to keep the youth offenders out. "I worry for my security," said resident Janice Zachary.

Teachers at the Family Worship Christian Academy worry for their students too, if a therapeutic juvenile center opens nearby. "With that type of facility, there's always a possibility that something could happen," said teacher Cathleen Hawkins.

But their worries might be premature. Parish President Don Menard assures KATC, the facility will not be on parish government property. "The only property we own as parish government is on the Airport Highway, it's actually airport property owned by St. Landry parish government. Never did I say this facility would be located on that property," said Menard.

Instead, two non-residential sites are being considered off I-49. Menard says he can't release the locations under consideration until negotiations are finished, but he says the $20 million facility will be placed on industrial or commercial land, far from homes.

Wednesday afternoon, Menard shared the latest plans with the St. Landry Children and Youth Services Planning Board. He's hoping to get their support.

"We have a lot of needs here for the youth. We need a good evidence based program that's gonna come in and provide those services," said social worker Claude Devillier, the secretary of the SYSPB.

The therapeutic facility would be modeled after Missouri's therapeutic juvenile justice system. It's considered to be the finest in the nation.

"The Acadiana Center for Youth" would employ about 90 people and bring $9 million to the parish. It would be the first facility of its kind in the state. The state Office of Juvenile Justice says it's needed here because a quarter of the youth in their care are from Acadiana.

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