$10,000 county contribution recommended for ankle monitoring program

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 10/21/19

After multiple discussions, the Bradley County Commission’s Finance Committee agreed on a $10,000 amount to put toward a statewide electronic monitoring indigency fund for misdemeanor offenders.

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$10,000 county contribution recommended for ankle monitoring program

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After multiple discussions, the Bradley County Commission’s Finance Committee has agreed on a $10,000 amount to put toward a statewide electronic monitoring indigence fund for misdemeanor offenders.

The recommendation will now go to the full County Commission today for approval. The issue was discussed in September, but was sent back to the Finance Committee.

"We've got to do something today," Finance Committee Chairman Milan Blake said last week. He added the recommendation must go to the full County Commission this week.

Blake said the last amount the committee recommended to the full County Commission was $50,000, with funding to be part of the 2020-21 budget.

Commissioner Louie Alford said he had requested Rich Kienlen, director of the Bradley County Misdemeanor Probation Office, be at the meeting.

Kienlen told commissioners last month he is working on a proposal for Misdemeanor Probation to take over ankle bracelet monitoring and drug-patch testing.

County Mayor D. Gary Davis said the plan isn't yet finalized. He is trying to find a way to pay for monitors, which could start Jan. 1, 2020. Davis said he and Kienlen just don't know "how many paying customers we'll have,” and how many will qualify as indigent for free monitoring.

"We're trying to find a way to pay for the indigent," Davis said.

He added the last time he checked there were seven indigent on ankle monitors. "We'll have something for your next Finance meeting, more concrete.”

Davis said the tentative plan is for Bradley County to lease monitors and develop a revenue line to fund it. He added he is looking at a Jan. 1, 2020, start date for ankle monitoring, and a July 1, 2020, start date for indigent funding from the state.

Commissioner Erica Davis said it is hard to set a number when they don't know the local cost for the program.

Mayor Davis suggested picking a number the committee is comfortable with and that will satisfy the state requirement.

Commissioner Kevin Raper asked what will prevent judges from assigning people to monitoring if/when the indigent funding runs out.

Commissioner Davis said she understands the judges will have to ask the County Commission for additional funds.

Before settling on the $10,000 local match amount, committee members discussed allocating between $20,000 and $50,000.

Blake said he doesn't want to have a conversation in the future of where to pull money from if the $50,000 figure can't be met.

Alford said he disagrees with Blake on a $30,000 figure, asking what the plan is if $30,000 is not enough. Alford said he would rather build the funding into the budget "on the front end."

"I'm being super cautious," Blake said.

Commissioner Davis said she's perplexed about discussing $50,000, because there are so few indigent people currently on ankle monitoring.

Last month, Kienlen said there are about 78 on drug patches and seven on ankle monitors "and six of them are paying," meaning one is considered indigent and eligible for assistance from the fund.

Commissioner Tom Crye agreed, adding most money is spent on drug patches.

Cassandra Stone, finance director for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, said there are a lot more people on drug patches than ankle monitoring.

Commissioner Davis made a motion to allocate $20,000, with funding to begin in the 2020-21 budget. However, there was no second.

Raper  made a motion to allocate $10,000, with funding to begin in the 2020-21 budget. Davis seconded the motion.

The $10,000 amount was approved in a 3-2 vote, with Blake, Davis and Raper voting in favor of it, and Alford and Crye voting against it.

The issue will now go before the full County Commission at its meeting today

"We should easily be able to budget $10,000," Blake said.

In other actions by the Finance Committee:

• Approved paying a $2,548 fee from the County Commission’s 599 line item in the budget.

Mayor Davis said in July commissioners approved a new five-year contract with the U.S. Postal Service to lease space in the Bradley County Courthouse Annex. He said the new contract is scheduled to take effect in November and the $2,548 fee has already been approved, but he needs authorization to pay it from the 599 line item.

Crye asked to whom the fee is being paid.

Davis said it is being paid to a leasing agency.

Alford asked if the revenue will come back to the 599 line item.

Davis said it will come in as revenue, not specifically to that line item.

Alford said he is concerned they need to remember during budget time to put in more money to replace these funds.

Davis noted he increases the 599 line item each year "more than what you requested."

• Approved multiple budget amendments, including a $5,000 request from the Finance Department to pay the deductible for a lawsuit related to a previous administration of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

Blake said money is moved to the department the lawsuit is against, to help track lawsuits.

• Heard the credit card use report from Davis.

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