St. Landry

Jul 18, 2011 11:28 PM by Maddie Garrett

Why St. Landry Lost New Juvenile Center to Avoyelles Parish

The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) celebrated a landmark Monday with the start of a new therapeutic center for juvenile offenders in Bunkie, LA. The center will be the first of its kind in Louisiana, and it could have been built in Acadiana. Now, what was St. Landry Parish's loss, is now Avoyelles Parish's gain.

"Very excited, I wish we could break ground tomorrow," said Mary Livers, Deputy Secretary of OJJ.

A new, state of the art juvenile facility will soon sit on a 20 acre plot of land just south of Bunkie on Highway 71. The center will not only bring about 85 high paying jobs to the area, but it will offer a different approach to helping troubled youth.

"We're going to be able to play a role in changing the lives of a lot of young people," said Bunkie Mayor Mike Robertson.

But the City of Bunkie wasn't the only place vying for the center. St. Landry Parish spent over two years trying to get it built there, but residents had trouble getting behind the project.

"Well community support is a very big part of it, you know we want to be in a community that sees the benefit of us being here. And Bunkie was very, very outspoken about how supportive they were of us being in this community," explained Livers.

Several communities in St. Landry Parish weren't supportive of the juvenile center. But Mayor Robertson said his community was, including a church and several homes that sit right next to the property.

"I just felt like that if the citizens of our community understood what the facility really was, that it's not a jail, it's not a prison, it's not a correctional facility but a therapeutic center for youthful offenders, they would be better accepting of what we wanted to do in locating this facility in Bunkie," said Robertson.

The City of Bunkie is in the process of purchasing the plot of land and then will donate it to OJJ. OJJ will then put out bids for the project; and once construction begins it will take about 18 months to complete.

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