The Nebraska State Probation Office may be taking over the Central Nebraska Drug Court.
Central Nebraska Drug Court serves Adams, Buffalo, Hall, Kearney and Phelps counties, and is administered by the district courts of the 9th and 10th Judicial Districts.
Adams County Attorney Donna Fegler Daiss, representing the drug court’s governing board, told the Hall County Board of Commissioners at its July 29 budget meeting the state is considering taking over the drug court.
“The state has proposed to the governing board that the state take over the drug court,” Fegler Daiss said, “and so we still need a budget because those discussions have barely been started and there’s a lot of logistics to work out. But we still need a budget so we can continue to operate.”
County Commissioner Butch Hurst, who serves as the county’s drug court committee member, told The Independent Monday that the move was first suggested about six weeks ago.
“To the best of my knowledge, we’re the last drug court that’s not under (Nebraska State) Probation,” Hurst said, “and about a month and a half ago they had a meeting and they want to move it all under the state probation.”
The move is being discussed with current drug court employees, he said.
“At that time, they were allowing any of the employees that were with the drug court — they are Hall County employees — the option at this time of either staying with Hall County or going as state employees,” Hurst explained.
This will be addressed at today’s meeting of the Hall County Board.
The state’s decision was not inspired by any actions or comments related to the resignation of Drug Court coordinator Todd Rosno in April after six years of service, Hurst said.
“This has to do with the whole state of Nebraska,” he said. “We had Todd Rosno resign. We have a judge who is retiring (Mark Young). Budget time. This has all come together at once. Hopefully, we get headed in at least the right direction tomorrow (Tuesday).”
Buffalo County Deputy Attorney Mike Mefferd is the drug court board’s current chairman.
Fegler Daiss told commissioners Thursday that discussions between the state and the court board could be concluded, once started, within 60 days.
“They’re anxious to get things discussed and completed, as are we,” she said. “If we are actually going to turn the court over to the state, we’d like to get it done fairly quickly.”
She added, “The employees for the drug court need to know how things are going to function.”
Fegler Daiss said she was surprised by the suddenness of the decision.
“This sort of came out of the blue. We didn’t even know they wanted to have a conversation about it,” she said. “They just started contacting people.”
Pam Lancaster, chair of the Hall County Board, voiced concerns about the short time frame for discussing and implementing the transfer.
“I think that 60 days is very short,” Lancaster said. “Because probation has to weigh in on this, because probation would take over a portion. It is quite complicated. Their board hasn’t even met yet.”
From a fiscal standpoint, it would be more beneficial for the state to take over the drug court from the county, Daiss said.
“We have a lot of close supervision because of the way it’s structured as to how the court actually runs and once it goes to the state, then the state takes over all of that and we have very little to say about how it will run,” she said. “But fiscally, certainly, the counties would no longer have that fiscal responsibility.”
Central Nebraska Drug Court submitted a total budget of $476,468.93 for the upcoming year, though it is unknown what will become of the allocation if the change is approved.
“Other than increases for salary, insurance, benefits, everything else has pretty much stayed the same,” Fegler Daiss said. “We do expect some revenue in the course of this budget from participants, county contributions and the state of Nebraska.”