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Grant extends juvenile initiative

Money helps county to find options for kids in court system

– Coming up with alternatives for Allen County juveniles who have broken laws and are now involved in the court system will be a continuing initiative after the county commissioners Friday accepted a grant from the Indiana Department of Correction.

The initial grant, which expired June 30, was extended for another year, and an additional $92,440 will go toward local programs and staffing, said Megan Horton, coordinator for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

Horton began working in April as coordinator of the program, which is aimed at moving low-risk youth from secure detention into community-based alternative programs.

“We are the 19th county in Indiana to sign on for this initiative,” she said.

A portion of the grant will also help pay for Check and Connect, a separate mentoring program aimed at reducing truancy and helping kids stay in school.

Mentors connect with the students, offering individualized intervention in partnership with school personnel, families and community service providers.

The program, initiated by Allen Superior Court Judge Dan Heath, is still in the infancy stage and will kick off this fall at South Side, North Side, New Haven and Wayne high schools.

Three part-time mentors and a coordinator who will also serve as a mentor will be hired, and schools have already submitted files of truant students to be considered for the program, Heath said.

In addition to grant money, the program is being funded by user probation fees. Heath is also forming the not-for-profit Friends of the Juvenile Center to accept local foundation grants and donations.

“We are trying to bring more funding to the center,” he said. “Eventually, we hope to make the mentors full time, hire additional staff and expand the program.”

About 1,400 to 1,500 affidavits of truancy are filed in court every school year, Heath said. “We won’t come close to having enough mentors” this fall, he said.

“Truancy is a big problem that leads to juvenile crime – 60 percent of juvenile crime occurs during school hours,” he said.

New apartments

The commissioners unanimously approved rezoning just over 38 agricultural acres on the west side of South Noyer Road, west of the Hamilton Meadows subdivision, to make way for construction of the Williamsburg Village apartment complex.

The 158 units, designed for empty-nesters, retirees and young professionals, will be available for $1,200 to $1,300 a month.

The rezoning from agricultural to multifamily residential drew no opposition at a public hearing, said Michelle Wood, senior planner for the Department of Planning Services.

In addition to Williamsburg Village, other developments by Redwood Acquisition of Beachwood, Ohio, include Maplecrest Luxury Apartments, Atrium Village on Wallen Road and Centennial Highlands on Diebold Road.