published Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Bradley County commissioners seek workhouse budget

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Detailed budget numbers are needed before a proposal for a 128-bed prefabricated workhouse can be put before the Bradley County Commission, according to a panel of law enforcement and court officials.

"We're just at a standstill right now," said Commissioner Brian Smith, chairman of the Bradley County Workhouse Committee.

On Thursday that panel had planned to decide whether to place facility operations under the supervision of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, the Bradley County Mayor's Office via the Department of Misdemeanor Probation, or a board of county commissioners.

However, the committee agreed to delay that decision until it could get concrete operating budget numbers from the sheriff's office to compare with those prepared by Misdemeanor Probation.

The proposed workhouse would offer an avenue of alternative sentencing for misdemeanor offenders, allowing them to leave for the day to work and charging them a housing fee, officials said. Staffing, construction costs and revenue streams to sustain the facility have been recurring topics of discussion for the Workhouse Committee and the Bradley County Finance Committee.

According to figures previously presented by Richard Keinlen, director of probation, the facility could net $19,400 a month -- a number that would triple once the workhouse's debt service was paid.

Estimated monthly costs have been placed at $89,800, including $38,900 in debt service and $29,300 in personnel costs, Keinlen said.

The estimated monthly debt service assumed the worst-case scenario of $2.9 million in facility construction costs, funded by a seven-year loan at 3.8 percent interest. Personnel costs were based on having two full-time supervisors and three shifts of two part-time staffers.

Monthly revenue has been estimated at $109,200, Keinlen said.

A key factor in sustaining the facility is the ability to house 103 county work release inmates and 25 state inmates monthly, according to Keinlen's estimates. The workhouse would take state inmates in excess of those budgeted for the county's correctional facility, which is run by the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, he said.

The daily income for county and state inmates -- $25 and $35, respectively -- would amount to $103,500 in monthly revenue if the facility is full.

Probation registration fees would add almost $6,000 to that total, he said.

Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth and other members of his office questioned the supervisory and staffing numbers.

Ruth asked the panel to consider the possibility of increasing the Bradley County Sheriff's Office budget if it assumed control of the proposed workhouse facility.

The Workhouse Committee meets again Nov. 21.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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