published Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Silverdale contract extension requested

Silverdale Detention Center
Silverdale Detention Center
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Paying someone to manage a prison gets pricey. But Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger says paying to do it yourself is even more expensive.

That's why Coppinger is asking the Hamilton County Commission to amend its contract with Corrections Corporation of America and adjust the management fee the county pays.

The company manages operations of the county's 1,062-bed Silverdale Detention Facility.

"Basically, it gives us the opportunity to give us a three-year deal," Coppinger said earlier this week.

Running Silverdale requires resources and expertise the county didn't have to spare, so it contracted with CCA in 1984 to run Silverdale.

The county paid the company a little more than $12.8 million in 2012 to run the detention center, which also houses some federal inmates, Assistant County Auditor Lee Brouner said.

But Coppinger said Wednesday it would cost "several more million" to have Sheriff Jim Hammond's office do the job.

Brouner told commissioners during an agenda session Thursday the main change in the contract involves increasing the management fee the county pays the company, while reducing the minimum bed requirement.

"We expect it to be [cost] neutral, but a lot of the change will depend on the population out there," Brouner said.

The average population at the facility last year was 886 inmates, and in the last four months, the average head count has been 802.

According to the proposed contract amendment, the management fee the county pays would increase in May 2014 and 2015 by the Consumer Price Index, but it would be capped at 2 percent.

"If the population remains constant the [cost to the county] will stay the same, or possibly go down," Brouner said.

Brouner described the county's contractual relationship with CCA as "a series of eight four-year contracts ... but it was basically designed as a 32-year-contract."

Commissioners will vote on the contract amendment Wednesday, during a regular commission meeting.

Mike Machak, spokesman for Nashville-based CCA, declined to comment specifically about what the company would do if commissioners did not amend the contract, but he said "CCA has worked in strong partnership with Hamilton County and is hopeful for the opportunity to maintain our long-standing relationship."

CCA operates more than 60 facilities nationwide.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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