Cass County employees are putting the finishing touches on the former American National Bank, 602 Ave. A, Plattsmouth, before Cass County State Probation officers move into the location this week.
“We only have a little clean up left to do. On March 6, the phones were in, the computers were set up and on the following Monday we will be open,” Cass County Probation Officer Jeff Leach said.
Leach told the county board the new location could use seven additional data drops and wifi access. He also asked about purchasing blinds for the three offices sharing a glass wall to ensure privacy for probationers and carpet runners to extend the life of the existing rug in high traffic areas. “There is also a spot of carpet that needs to be glued down,” he said. “There will also be some extra equipment that the county can use or that can be thrown away.”
Friday will be last day to move in before the office is open to the public. “We have some heavy items that might call for an extra strong back, but the goal is that Friday is the final day,” Leach said.
The county board approved the purchase of the building for $200,000 at its Oct. 17, 2017, meeting. “With the closing costs, the total was $200,825. A credit of $65,855.62 was given for property taxes and a closing cost credit leaving a total of $134,969 owed by the county,” said Commissioner Janet McCartney. “The agreement documents were dated Nov. 1.”
To transition the bank into probation’s new home, the large entry space was converted into office space. Another large space in the back of the building was divided into three offices. So far, the drive-through window is still in place and the safe is open but empty.
Remodeling the interior created eight offices for eight probation officers including one drug technician, separate male and female bathrooms and a group conference room. “We’ll use the conference room to do job training and helping people on decision making skills. If the person is on post-release, we help him/her integrate into the community by making job referrals and providing training. We work on improving their social skills,” Leach said.
“They help them get back on the track to be positive and productive citizens,” McCartney added.
For several years, probation staff was located on the lower level of the annex building, 145 N. Fourth St., with some employees working upstairs in the courthouse.
“Getting an office was on a first-come, first-served basis. Whoever gets in the office first got an office for the day. There has also been some office sharing,” Leach explained.
Having a large enough facility for probation work was essential. “We were on top of each other in the courthouse and probation isn’t going to shrink,” he said. “We work with post-release clients who get out of prison. Probation oversees them and this helps reduce their amount of time in jail and overcrowding in the prisons.”
The move to a separate and larger space allows the staff to better serve probationers. “As the community grows, there will be more high-risk adults. We actually could expand and make additional rooms in the new building,” Leach said. “We can add staff now that we have the room to do so.”
Currently, two officers work with juveniles. “We also have a rural service officer who works with juvenile clients a couple of days each week through AmeriCorps,’ Leach said.
Leach’s caseload includes 50 high-risk offenders. Other probation officers handling medium to low-risk offenders carry an average caseload of 145. Officers with juvenile probationers have caseloads ranging from 30-40.
“Juveniles need more attention,” Leach said. “Many of these are placed on probation instead of going to jail. Incarceration rates are very high. Putting people on probation serves the community better financially and socially. We keep a pretty close track on them.”
When the probation offices are moved, the assessor will use more space in the Annex Building.
Regarding the new office, Cass County Interim Attorney Colin Palm told the board state statute requires the county to be responsible for its maintenance, cleaning, utility bills, trash pickup and equipment upkeep. “Computers are exempt. Travel expenses, computer hardware and computer software are exempt,” he said.
“We want to provide everything we’re expected to provide,” said Cass County Board Chairman Dan Henry.