published Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Group of Hamilton County high school students sworn in to youth court

IN OTHER BUSINESS

On Wednesday, commissioners also heard resolutions on:

• Buying a $120,000 roll-off truck from Lee-Smith Inc. for the highway department. The truck will replace a truck that was in an accident.

• Approving a $35,294 agreement to relocate a water line for a proposed roundabout at Standifer Gap and Ooltewah-Ringgold roads.

• Changing the name of Bella Pointe Drive to Bella Point.

• Reformatting and reorganizing Hamilton County zoning regulations to be "more user friendly."

SCHOOLS BUDGET HEARING

After the agenda session Wednesday, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith presented to commissioners the proposed 2015 school system budget.

The proposed budget includes a combined $399 million in county, state and federal funds. The general purpose budget request is $345 million, about $3 million more than last year. But the county's contribution is not increasing -- except for an expected 2 percent increase from property tax revenue growth.

However, the school system does plan to spend about $3 million from its fund balance to overcome a revenue shortfall, which would put the balance at $29 million.

Commissioners questioned Smith about federal iZone funds the schools receive -- which are in their final year -- planned building maintenance projects and school system health insurance costs. But largely, commissioners raised no pointed concerns.

Mayor Jim Coppinger's office has worked with the school system to develop its proposed budget, and Coppinger intends to present his final budget to commissioners sometime in June.

More than two dozen Hamilton County high school students were sworn in Wednesday to serve on the county's first youth court.

Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw told commissioners in a recessed meeting that the students had trained diligently after school and work to serve as leaders to their peers who run afoul of the law.

The youth court will be an alternative to Juvenile Court for some young defendants.

Across the state, Philyaw said, the program has been quite successful.

"Ninety-three percent of the defendants who appear in youth court across the state do not re-offend within the year," Philyaw said.

So far, students from Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences; East Ridge, Lookout Valley and Tyner high schools; and Signal Mountain Middle/High School are participating. Philyaw said he hopes the program will expand in the future.

The students serving on the youth court will be mentored by attorneys in the Hamilton County District Attorney General's Office, Philyaw said.

In an agenda session after the presentation, commissioners also mulled letting Sheriff Jim Hammond spend about $160,000 to buy 23 in-car cameras for his new wave of police cars and eight portable radios for his new school resource officers.

Don Gorman, Hammond's director of administration, said the new cameras would be state of the art.

"This is the top-of-the-line camera out there. It turns on as soon as the officer activates his blue lights," he told the commission.

In four separate resolutions, commissioners discussed accepting about $1 million in state grants to fund programs to help fund county parenting, public health, infant mortality and safety net programs.

Commissioners will vote next week on these and other agenda items during a regularly scheduled meeting.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 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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