published Saturday, March 12th, 2011

County panel recommends approval of contract increases

by Dan Whisenhunt

Next week, Hamilton County commissioners likely will approve two contract increases, one with a contractor for work at Enterprise South industrial park and one with the company that runs Silverdale Detention Center.

On Thursday, commissioners reviewed a proposed contract extension and increase for Corrections Corporation of America, which operates Silverdale.

Under the proposed agreement, the daily rate that the county pays per prisoner to CCA would increase from $38.81 to $39.20 in 2011 and $39.59 in 2012.

The county must pay for a minimum population of 915 prisoners at the workhouse — about $35,000 per day — but Director of Corrections Barbara Payne said the county receives a roughly $5 reduction per prisoner in the daily rate when Silverdale has 700 or more prisoners.

During the review, members of the commission’s Finance Committee vented their frustration about what they see as unfair compensation from the state for housing state prisoners.

Payne told commissioners that the current state budget proposal calls for reducing the rate that Tennessee pays the county for state prisoners from $35 to $32 per day. Payne’s office reported 71 state prisoners are housed at Silverdale, with nine pending transfer to a state facility.

“The state’s decision to cap all reimbursements for housing state prisoners has cost Hamilton County taxpayers $9,333,403 from October 1994 through June 2010,” Payne’s office said via e-mail.

Commissioner Warren Mackey called that an “unfunded mandate.”

“I’m looking at it from the standpoint of Hamilton County taxpayers,” Mackey said. “I don’t know if there’s a way for us to get around these charges. The state, they’re short on money, but there’s no excuse for them to put it on us.”

Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction, said, “We pay what we are required to pay.”

Commissioners also recommended approving a $921,868 contract increase with Talley Construction to complete a “setout yard” at Enterprise South. County Engineer Todd Leamon said the yard is a staging area for trains coming into the industrial park. The original contract was worth $3 million.

Leamon listed “unsuitable soil,” as one of the reasons for the increase.

Under the contract increase, the county would split the amount with Chattanooga. The county also is also applying for a $307,289 economic development grant to offset the cost.

Commissioners will consider both issues when they meet on March 16.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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