Finney County Breaks Down Silos, Builds Community

ARTICLE | Dec 18, 2015

The ground has been broken and the basement cement poured as Finney County moves forward with the voter approved resource center at the corner of 12th and Santa Fe adjacent to the Southwest Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  With the vision and support of the County Commissioners and County Administrator Randall Partington, a dream is becoming reality.   On March 3, 2015 Finney County residents went to the polls and voted in this 6.5 million dollar building to be paid for with sales tax dollars.   Because the 25th Judicial District covers the six counties in southwest Kansas of Finney, Kearney, Hamilton, Greeley, Wichita, and Scott, it was decided a sales tax was a fairer option instead of property tax increases.  The building is designed for the 25th Judicial Districts Adult Community Corrections, Youth Services, and Court Services to be in one location in order to provide many services to their clients and to the public. 

One of the challenges with bringing this project together was the silo's each agency has built over the years and letting things go.  It all sounds good on paper then when the time has come to come together there has been some hard conversations.  The county has decided to have a Project Manager and the Court Administrator to work together with the agencies going in to the building to help find solutions to how the agencies can work within their standards placed on them by Department of Corrections and State of Kansas.  Success will be determined on how well the groups come together to provide the services the tax payers were told about in the meetings. 

Educating the public as to the need of the building helped to bring this to fruition.  Department Heads from the JDC, Community Corrections, Youth Services and Court Services along with the Mayor, County Administrator and a County Commissioner all attended small meetings in order to education the voters.  Some of the places visited were the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis, and Senior Center.  Everyone shared the same vision and excitement to be able to house all serves in one area and to help the underserved.  Four Department Heads sat down and identified every group we could think of in Garden City and the surrounding areas.  We then split up the list and called someone from every group and asked if we could come and share with them and their members about the building and how important their vote is.   At these meetings we had handouts of what we currently have and what we want and bullet points on the future plans.

Finney County residents voted in favor of combining all the aforementioned agencies in to one building in order to reduce recidivism and promote public safety; to expand efforts and advocacy for collaboration and partnerships in addressing systemic issues; reduce incarceration by enhancing use of risk assessments and community-based interventions; expand and improve annual training and professional development in use of core correctional practices and evidence-based programming; and to continue to review and improve centralized administration policies and business practices to ensure efficient and effective management in full compliance with professional standards and regulations.

Along with the aforementioned services, the building will have a place where any citizen can come in and utilize resources to apply for jobs, work on their resume, or gain job skills through Finney County Workforce Development.  Along with office space the building will have training rooms for those involved with the court system and to have psycho-educational groups offered at a reasonable cost to clients and their families.  The building will also house an exercise area for staff of all four agencies in order for staff to complete mandated physical intervention trainings.  The building also will have much needed storage space for the many documents each agency is required to keep.

While the building is not scheduled to be completed until July of 2016, each of the four agencies are beginning the process of what it will look like when the building will open so we may be able to have a smooth transition for the clients and their families.  As one Director of an agency stated, “It’s exciting to see that the residents of Finney County want to help the clients we serve to be productive members of society.”  In the future we hope to stop the generations of families in corrections and we work with them to identify and fix some of their offending behaviors.  Success allows us to help people earn a GED or high school diploma, learn job skills so they can be productive members of society and then get and keep a job. 

For other local government considering a similar collaborative project with stakeholders in a community, we have some advice.  If we could do this over we would have identified some of these issues of "turf" earlier in the process instead of waiting until we are building a building and realizing we had some issues of silos/turf that needed dealt with.  We would also have gotten more information from Legislatures on what can we do within the building when we have County and State employee's working together and who can do what.  These are now things we are dealing with and it can get tough when one area thinks they are in charge and another area thinks they are in charge.  Getting that identified earlier on would help with some of the current turf wars.

6 Qualities Impacted

  • Authentic Community Connections
  • Robust External Partnerships

 

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