County postpones creation of new adult diversion program

YORK – After two public conversations in recent weeks regarding the creation of a new adult diversion program, the York County Commissioners have postponed the matter for now.

Tristan Perry, juvenile diversion program director, and York County Attorney Gary Olson came to the commissioners in late August with the idea.

It would have required additional spending in the new budget, for the creation of the new department/program as grant applications can’t be made until this fall and won’t be available until the following fiscal year.

Still, Perry and Olson said the program would provide another avenue for criminal offenders to receive services, which would in turn cut down the expenses associated with probation and incarceration.

After this week’s budget hearing, prior to the final adoption of the county’s budget, Perry spoke about the new program again, with the commissioners. Chairman Randy Obermier said he put the matter on the agenda one more time, in order to have a vote and hear from each of the commissioners as to whether it should be added to the budget.

“Last night, we had a hearing about our tax asking and a number of people at that hearing said we should not increase spending and cut, cut, cut,” said Commissioner Daniel Grotz. “So it’s hard to say yes to this.”

“Counties that have had this type of a program for the last 20 years have seen the savings,” Perry said. “But I also understand it’s hard to start this when looking at cutting back. However, I also think we can show you this will cut back on jail costs, etc.”

“Another comment at our tax asking hearing was that ‘we don’t want to spend more but if we don’t make these types of investments, we will keep spending money to house inmates elsewhere,’” added Commissioner Woody Ziegler. “It’s really a balancing act.”

“Gary (County Attorney Olson) and I are trying to find ways to alleviate spending for the taxpayers. That’s always our goal. That’s what I am always searching for,” Perry responded.

“Being you would be operating on a grant, I have no problem exploring how it can help us,” said Grotz. “Being you are funded by specific sources, I have no problem looking at a pilot program. The trouble I have is finding funding to make it doable in this budget year.”

“We will have client fees to make up some of the cost,” Perry said.

“Is there any way to run a pilot program, to show these cases were successful in bringing costs down –could it run only off program fees?” Grotz asked.

“I don’t think they would cover 100% of the costs but it would be pretty close,” Perry said.

“Just being honest, mine probably won’t be a vote for adding to this budget,” Grotz said. “If it could run off program fees to see how it would work for York County, I could do that.”

“You are obviously passionate about this, but this is also adding an expense to this budget we just finished,” Obermier said. “What if we did something mid-year, like we did with juvenile diversion earlier, after a grant came in? I just need more information and this came in at a late hour. I wouldn’t be for putting in this budget but I am open to continue to look at this. But to just give a go-ahead and change the budget, I’m not for that. This should have been a May or June conversation, not a conversation in late August, early September. I think it has merit, but it’s the timing for me. And it’s another expenditure.”

“I’d like to see some more information on the results of the juvenile program,” said Commissioner Stan Boehr. “I need more information.”

“For the purposes of the 2023-24 budget, I make a motion to not include the creation of an adult diversion program,” said Grotz, which was seconded by Boehr. The commissioners agreed and the matter will not be included in this budget, but will be revisited in the future.

Perry also said he would work to provide as much information as possible, moving forward.

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