New leaders may help revive Judge Riddel Boys Ranch

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WICHITA -- The Judge Riddel Boys Ranch will soon close.

However, some Sedgwick County leaders are hopeful about its return.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau believes this year's election will revive the program, as several candidate have expressed interest in bringing back the facility for troubled youth.

"I think we're just kind of rushing into it. I think we should just hold off," Ranzau said.

"We need to get them back onto a path to where they're going to be productive members of society," echoed Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. "I think that's a big plus for this community and this state."
Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan said by August, other departments will have access to furniture and other goods inside the facility at Lake Afton. If items are not taken, they may be stored or be auctioned.

Earlier this year, Buchanan said the program was a financial risk. The state and county could not make a financial agreement.

The state paid the county $126 per boy per day at the boys ranch. The county spent about $200 per day per boy at the ranch. To help curb costs, staff members have worked 12-hour shifts -- but those measures couldn't help the situation, some commissioners said.

"The county absorbed a lot of costs," said Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan. "Over the past several years, we've lost $59 million from the state -- that's huge -- and we can't live that way anymore. We have to reduce programs and we have to reduce services."

Ranzau said the county needs to reconsider any plans at this point. By selling or getting rid of items, it may create challenges to re-establish the boys ranch.

"We have funds available here in the meantime to continue to operate it. All we need is the will of the commission," Ranzau said. "That is just going to make it more difficult and more costly to the tax payers, so I think we have plenty of time. I think if we'd just slow down some of this process, let's see how the elections turn out and see if there might be a change of heart come January."

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