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Tina Heywood: So many questions surround plan for new juvenile detention center

This commentary is by Tina Heywood, a resident of Newbury.

The Department for Children and Families proposal to replace Woodside Juvenile Detention Facility has been a circus from the word go. Certainly full of clowns and juggling acts, just not in the same context.

Throughout this whole process, I’ve seen people lose sight of things such as best practices, local control, what is in the best interest of the youth, integrity, transparency and what is fundamentally sound.

Poor judgment on the part of the DCF created an unnecessary emergency when considering the new replacement facility for Woodside. Where was the oversight of this designated agency and the proposal? Better yet, who is responsible for the oversight of this designated agency? 

Who made the decision that it was fundamentally sound to pursue a proposal littered with inconsistencies and half-truths? Who made the decision to allow taxpayers’ dollars to be used to defend a private company against litigation and pay for things such as upkeep of its property? 

Where is the transparency about how many tax dollars have already been invested to defend this private company, Beckett Family of Services?  

Where does the responsibility rest with unearthing the multiple different accounts of manipulation. and then doing something about this? Who is at fault for ignoring the truth, that this proposed juvenile detention facility never was, nor will be, a duplication of a program that already existed? 

Did people in Montpelier see the citizens of Newbury as a bunch of uneducated, paranoid, NIMBY residents who didn’t have the determination to see this appeal through?

During several legislative committee meetings, there were some reservations expressed about DCF’s proposal and where to go from here.  One committee acknowledged the current litigation, but also indicated there was nothing it could do because of the active court case.

Admittedly, I am not well versed on the policy governing the legislative body, but it seems ludicrous to me that if the Legislature approved the funding under misleading circumstances, then the legislative body should have the authority to revoke the funds for said plan.

Here we sit, two years later, and this proposal heads to the Vermont Supreme Court. It’s possible the state may win, and the next juvenile detention facility will sadly be erected in the backwoods of Newbury, an hour away from a police response, in a district zoned primarily for forestry, agriculture and the like. In a town that shares its law enforcement response with 26 other towns. In a town with minimal services, housing Vermont’s most violent youth, hours away from their families in some situations, with no available public transportation. 

Should this proposal win in the Vermont Supreme Court, this decision should invoke fear in every single Vermonter. This process has demonstrated how quickly a town’s local control can and will be stripped away, regardless of compliance with such things as zoning laws. 

It has taught us that transparency is only applicable to some, that there are some who will do and say whatever it takes to get what they want, even if that means compromising ethical and moral attributes.  It has also taught us that the higher up you go, the less apt people are to “rock the boat” and instead take the easy road, versus confronting the evil in front of them.  

There is a chance the decision will be reversed in favor of the town of Newbury. Let’s think about that for a moment. Can you imagine the realization if that were to happen? To go before the public and announce that a proposal, the only proposal that has been actively pursued seriously, is no longer an option? How many thousands of dollars will have been invested by the taxpayers at that time in a private company that has invested zero dollars? 

I suspect if the Town of Newbury wins on appeal, the state will immediately have the next flavor of the week through some epiphany. Welcome to the world of the new three-ring circus!

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