Workhouse panel looks at funding prospects
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
May 16, 2013 | 701 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bradley County workhouse committee will give a presentation to the Bradley County Commission during the May 28 work session.

The presentation will provide information on funding and program ideas for a proposed workhouse.

Committee Chairman Brian Smith said during a meeting Wednesday he plans to make a motion after the presentation to send the issue to the finance committee to consider the financial feasibility of the project.

The workhouse is being proposed as a self-sustaining program through fees and renting out office space.

Rich Kienlen, whose misdemeanor probation program annually brings in more revenue than projected, presented a comparison of costs versus revenue to the committee.

Committee member Ed Elkins said revenue projections for the project presented at a previous meeting were “optimistic.”

“You are not just going to start out full board, and costwise all of your expenses for operation are there, even though you don’t have a full house yet,” Elkins said.

New estimates are based on having the facility 80 percent full.

Committee member Alvin Word said the numbers were inaccurate based on a recent email from the company giving the estimates. The email stated an increase in building costs could be as much as $30,000.

An optional second floor addition may have been the reason for the increase, Word said. Exact numbers were unavailable.

Kienlen is in discussion with Bradley County Mayor D. Gay Davis to see if a portion of the revenue brought in from the misdemeanor probation could be used toward the workhouse.

The misdemeanor probation program is estimated to bring in $60,000 more than projected. Usually any revenue brought in above projections goes to the Bradley County general budget. Kienlen is asking for $25,000 of the surplus to be held for the workhouse.

Kienlen said the county has also been contacted by someone who has overseen a workhouse in Anderson County.

He said he was interested in visiting the facility and seeing how it runs. The project would have to be bid out, with the county choosing the lowest and best bid, before the facility is built.

A workhouse program would provide the court system with an alternative sentencing avenue.

“There are people who have jobs who want to keep their jobs, who will say they want to go to the workhouse versus jail. You will have that,” said Assistant District Attorney Stephen Hatchett.

“We need something between straight probation and the county jail and that’s the workhouse. That’s always been my position on why we need the workhouse.”

A requirement early on will be that nonviolent offenders already have a job in order to be considered for the program.

Hatchett said many nonviolent offenders may be employed in nontraditional ways. He said as long as the employment could be verified, he would be fine with the individual being considered for the workhouse program.

An added element to the program may be to help nonviolent offenders find jobs, so they can qualify for the program.

Kienlen said he is working on a presentation to local industries who may partner to help provide jobs to nonviolent offenders.

“I think it would go a long way [toward] helping people be employed for this workhouse,” Kienlen said.

He is also planning a presentation for the local bar association.

Those in the program would work their job as usual and stay in the workhouse facility during off hours.