State Government

Juvenile detention center hearing August 25

Once planned as B&B, privately-run Newbury building would house six teenaged male offenders

by Meg Trogolo, Community News Service and the Journal-Opinion

NEWBURY–The Vermont Department of Families and Children and private contractors Becket Family of Services have submitted proposals to state and local governments for the privately run Covered Bridge juvenile detention facility in Newbury.

The Act 250 application to the state government, was submitted on July 23, and a site visit followed by a hearing in Bradford on that application will occur on Aug. 25. Becket also submitted a proposal to the town of Newbury, and Becket attorney Jon Anderson expects there to be a town hearing on that application at some point in September.

DCF and Becket plan to remodel a building on Stevens Place which was originally built as a bed and breakfast and which Becket had been running as a treatment center, according to the Act 250 application. It will hold up to six teenage male offenders.

The building will be retrofitted to comply with “high security standards,” according to the Act 250 application, and will also be equipped with energy-efficient lighting, mechanical equipment, and insulation.

The construction will cost over $3 million, and the funding for Covered Bridge will come entirely from Vermont DCF, according to an Aug. 3 letter from Anderson to Act 250 District Coordinator Linda Matteson which was filed as part of the application.

The plan comes at a time when Vermont is without a state juvenile detention center. The previous facility, Woodside Juvenile Detention Center in Essex, closed in 2020.

DCF Commissioner Sean Brown said that part of the reason the old facility closed was that Woodside had 30 beds, more than the state needed.

“Over the last several years, the most [Woodside] had at any one time was five youth, so we believe a six bed facility will meet the needs of Vermont’s youth who need this level of treatment,” Brown said.

Woodside did come under scrutiny as it approached its end. Multiple separate investigations into the facility were in progress as it shut down.

According to a July 2020 VTDigger article, Disability Rights Vermont, a nonprofit organization, filed a federal lawsuit stating that DCF had failed to address “dangerous conditions” at Woodside, including the use of inappropriate restraints and an incident where a staff member caused a youth to injure his head on a door.

Additionally, 11 of Woodside’s 30 employees were under investigation for misconduct in the weeks leading up to the facility’s close, according to a September 2020 VTDigger article.

Woodside was operated by the state of Vermont, while Covered Bridge will be operated by Becket, a private company which approached DCF with the idea to convert an existing building.

According to Brown, Becket and DCF have been collaborating on the design of the treatment programs youth will go through at the facility, as well as the design of the building itself.

Brown also led several public forums over the course of the spring where community members discussed the Covered Bridge project.

Several Newbury residents expressed concern that youth would run away from the facility or that local traffic would increase, and Brown proposed a number of solutions to address those concerns.

Brown does not believe it is likely that anyone will leave the facility given that the building itself will contain security measures, and said that a system will be in place to alert local residents in case anything takes place at the facility that could affect the community.

“If there’s an incident at the facility, we will use a mass communication tool to let people know if something’s happened,” Brown said. “It’s a very rare event, and we’ve offered to look at increased law enforcement presence if that’s what the community would like to see happen.”

In addition, the executive director of the facility will attend meetings in surrounding communities regularly in order to keep up with local events and address residents’ concerns.

The Act 250 hearing for the Covered Bridge project will take place on Aug. 25, beginning at 9:30 a.m. with a site visit at 487 Stevens Place in Newbury and continuing afterwards with a hearing at the Bradford Academy.

Individuals interested in participating in the hearing should contact District Commissioner Linda Matteson at before the the hearing.


Categories: State Government

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