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Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs board scraps plans for Ada center

Board members for the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs cite projected budget cuts as a reason to cancel plans to ink a contract with an Ada group for a new juvenile detention center.
BY ANN KELLEY Published: February 26, 2011

Board members for the Office of Juvenile Affairs on Friday scrapped plans to build a new juvenile detention center in Ada.

Expected budget cuts to the state agency and rising operation costs were cited as reasons for canceling plans to sign a contract with an Ada group to build a new center.

Board members also directed the agency to conduct an internal review of the bidding process surrounding the contract and are asking for an attorney general's opinion on the legislation that allowed them to request proposals.

The contract, awarded in November to the Ada Youth Academy Authority, has been dogged by accusations of bid rigging and linked to a state senator and lobbyist's extramarital affair. Two contract signings were delayed because of reviews of the bidding.

Board Chairman Hastings Siegfried said the decision to halt the project is purely financial.

�For now, it's done,� Siegfried said. �If the agency's financial outlook gets better in the future, it will be up to OJA staff to bring it back to us for consideration.�

The agency estimates its 2011-12 budget could be cut 3 to 10 percent, resulting in a decrease of $2.9 million to $9.9 million to state programs for juvenile offenders.

Greg Pierce, chairman of the Ada Youth Academy Authority, said his team will meet next week to discuss how to proceed should there be an opportunity to rebid the project. He said their proposal would have saved the agency money, and it's still the best option for juvenile offenders.

The new center would replace the aging, maximum-security L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs.

The Ada group proposed a nonsecure campus with 144 beds operated by Rite of Passage, a Colorado-based company that uses sports and academics as part of a rehabilitation curriculum.

The Ada proposal also called for about 50 maximum-security beds to be added to an existing detention center in Tecumseh.

The $10 million-a-year contract for the center came under scrutiny last year after The Oklahoman revealed state Sen. Harry Coates, 60, was having a romantic affair with lobbyist Haley Atwood, 30.

Atwood worked for Rite of Passage and a Norman architectural firm that would have designed the Ada campus.

Coates, R-Seminole, was among several lawmakers involved in legislation last year asking the agency to build a new detention center.

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