WICHITA, Kan. -- Sedgwick County continues to move forward to close Judge Riddel Boys Ranch after July 1.
Wednesday morning, the commission approved a plan to find eight horses new homes. The horses, which ranch from 13 to 25 years old, have been a part of the facility for several years.
"It's therapeutic in a way," said public safety director Marvin Duncan. "Teaches boys responsibility. The boys took care of the horses, looked after them , maintained them, developed a relationship with them."
However, commissioners say the program must go because it's too much of a financial risk. Several commissioners expressed deep regret for this move.
"Thank you to all of the people who have worked out at Judge Riddel's Boys Ranch, and I know there have been a lot of people out there who have made a lot of personal sacrifices to try and make it work and be successful," said commissioner Richard Ranzau.
The state pays the county $126 per boy per day at the boys ranch. The county spends 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."
Last summer, state legislators gave a one-year grant to the county in the amount of $750,000 to pay for the program, which covers funding through their fiscal year, ending June 30. The program asked for $1.5 million.
In addition to relocating the 31 boys at the facility, the county is looking to find suitable homes for the horses. The county said they will donate the horses to the best homes possible. The horses will come with their current medication and other necessary gear.
For more information, contact Glenda Martens, facility manager of the Sedgwick County Department of Correction. She can be reached at (316) 660-1623.