published Thursday, January 5th, 2012

No case to close Taft

The state says it can save about $4.4 million a year if it accepts Commissioner of Children's Services Kathryn O'Day's recommendation to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville. It implies, as well, that successful programs at Taft can be replicated at similar facilities that will remain open elsewhere in Tennessee. Say what they will, state officials have offered little evidence to support their contentions about either the savings or the programs if the center is closed.

The impetus for the rush to close the facility, it seems, is to help balance a budget adversely affected by politicians' continued refusal to end the state's almost total reliance on a regressive sales tax for revenue. Solving that problem through short-sighted cuts to vital programs seems paramount. Too little attention is being given to what is best for the troubled young men that Taft serves, for those who work there, and for the region where the youth center is located. In a more equitable world, the reverse would be true.

O'Day says the Taft Center is the least efficient in the state, though she offers little or no documentation to prove that is the case. She says that it is too remote, though it certainly is centrally located to the region it serves. Indeed, about a third of its residents come from nearby Hamilton County and surrounding areas. She says, too, that the facility needs $37 million in improvements, though there is no indication from those familiar with Taft that the cited need for improvements has compromised the work there.

Indeed, Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Suzanne Bailey told a Times Free Press reporter that "I'm so heartbroken about this [the effort to close Taft]. I consider this one of the finest facilities Tennessee has for delinquent children. And it's the closest to us." Bailey, obviously, is familiar with the Taft Center. Her opinion should carry far more weight than that of a number-crunching bureaucrat in Nashville.

So should the views of state representatives and senators. Four from the region were at a Tuesday meeting in Pikeville called to discuss the possible closure. All -- Republicans and Democrats -- oppose closure. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, flatly said that he's "seen the numbers the state has brought forward [to support closure], and they don't add up. The math is not there."

Closing the center will mean unemployment for Taft's more than 160 workers. O'Day overlooks the costs associated with that. Not long ago, O'Day said those left jobless if Taft closed should be able to find jobs at the nearby Bledsoe Correctional Complex, a state prison for adults that is scheduled to open in 2013. Neither O'Day nor any other state official, though, will say that displaced Taft employees would be guaranteed jobs at the new complex.

Even if some Taft workers eventually find jobs at the correctional facility a year or more from now, it's likely that most will go on unemployment for a year, if not more. Paying those costs and providing health care through TennCare for displaced workers could erode most of the savings forecast by O'Day.

Taft provides useful services to many of the region's most troubled young men, and it is a valuable resource to both the community where it is located and the region it services. If the state wants to close the Taft Center, it must make a strong case to do so. So far, it has failed to make a case at all.

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pikeville said...

O'Day told Haslam during a November budget hearing that Taft is the system's most costly facility, with a $12 million annual operating budget and as much as $37 million in capital needs. By closing Taft, the department would save $4.4 million a year, according to O'Day. Most of the 167 people who work at Taft are trained by the Tennessee Department of Correction and should be able to find jobs at the nearby $208 million Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, slated to open in 2013, O'Day said. O'Day responded Friday, saying the $37 million in repairs and updates needed at Taft includes repairs to its 1932-era boiler, replacement of a security building and kitchen facility and construction of new dormitories, which were built in 1943 and 1963. Taft was built in 1918. These are direct quotes from the commissioner of children’s services Kate O’Day. This is the same commissioner that told Governor Haslam during budget hearings in Knoxville last month;“there is no differentiating line between Dependent Neglect/Foster Children and Juvenile Justice kids.” Either this commissioner is being badly misinformed from within her own department, or she is misleading the Governor and the taxpayers for another reason. This is the facts of the case! 1. Tafts total budget is 12,328,500. In this 12.3 million there is the operating costs of a water plant that serves thousands of residents, SETRCF, and Fall Creek Falls State Park. The state will not allow Taft to profit from the water sales, in fact they don’t let them break even. In this budget number TRICOR farm utilities are deducted. This is a large milk producing farm that runs 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. The costs to operate these things are 400,000 dollars annually. This drops Tafts budget to 11,928,500 in comparison WHYDC’s in Nashville budget is 12,148,400 Wilder in west Tn. 11,342,300 MVYDC in east Tn. 11,287,700. Considering Taft returned over 800,000 dollars in 2010 and 1.2 million in 2009 saying Taft is the most expensive is misleading. 2. Ms.O’Day says Taft needs 37 million in repairs of this 37 million she has listed 1932 era boiler, new security complex, and kitchen. 1948 and 1963 dorms. Even if all this were true it is a far cry from 37 million. The truth is Taft has 2 new boilers powered by natural gas installed in Oct.2005, There was a new state of the art security complex built in 2006, The dorms and kitchen were totally renovated in 1982. Taft was accredited by ACA in 2009 with a score of 99.9. The lowest score the kitchen has ever received from the health department going back 6 years is 93. As I said earlier either this commissioner is being badly misinformed from within her own department or she is misleading the Governor and the tax payers for another reason? You be the judge!!

January 4, 2012 at 9:44 p.m.
Crossville said...

Taft Youth Center has obviously come out on top with every comparison that has been made from what I have been reading on the posts of all these articles. If those facts are being taken into consideration then WHY WHY WHY is it being proposed to close? And it seems that lately Ms. O'Day and Nashville have been quite silent even though there is so much publicity on the matter... Just make me wonder if they have another card up their sleeves. I hope that I am wrong in my wonder and they are being professional and simply trying to come up with those figures they have been requested to submit.

January 4, 2012 at 9:54 p.m.
RealDeal said...

Someone asked the question today: "Why hasn't Ms. O'Day come to Pikeville to present her proposal?" My reply was this:

Good question. Heaven knows they have spent close to 4 million sending their minions in to check on us..........quality control out of the planning and development section, LOL.

We had more visitors in December than we have had in over two years. They toured the facility with that all-knowing gleam in their eyes. Of course, no one knew the real reasons for their visits, but we are always open and have nothing to hide, so it's all good!:)

January 4, 2012 at 10:10 p.m.
pikeville said...

The truth will come out. How can you propose to close a facility that has successfully treated the most troubled youth in this great state for nearly a century? No one should be treated like the employees of TYC have been treated over the past few months!! They have spent their holiday worrying about whether they will have a job in the upcoming year. Yet they have kept their focus and safely housed the most troubled youth in the state for another year. Shame on you DCS administrators in Nashville. I'm not sure who is responsible for the misleading information, but whoever is needs to loose their job. This is an injustice and thanks to the bipartisan group of law makers, and the Juvenile Court Judges who are in support of the BEST YDC FACILITY in the state THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT!!! Thank you to all of you that are putting your differences aside to support these people and the work they do.

January 4, 2012 at 11:33 p.m.
employee said...

Is O'Day worth 12,000 a month... take a pay cut... that will save the state some money!! She hasn't got a clue... get a new commish!!

January 5, 2012 at 12:24 a.m.
notstupid said...

The funny thing is that she can't do her job but has to have someone else do it for her and we pay him close to $100,000 a year. Not to mention that he is the same one that when he was at WHYDC would send the students that they could not handle to Taft. Taft still receives the students that the other facilities can't handle. If they can't handle them now how will they be able to handle them if they close Taft. That just means that they no longer have Taft to threaten the students with. They could always do away with a few jobs in Nashville that do not do anything and save the jobs of the ones that actually work with the kids and help the children. I believe this is another situation where someone is making decisions without knowing anything about what they are talking about. Until you work hand and hand with these kids you do not really now what these employees deal with day in and day out. When the employees go to work it is more like you adopt 90 something kids to be a parent figure to and some of the kids have never had that and do not know how to react to it. The employees do more than just watch kids they try to teach them the right choices to make in life and even help them enroll in college. They teach them how to deal with situations when people lie to them and how to treat people. It is easy to sit in an office in Nashville and tell people they are not doing a good job and that you don't care if they have a job or not if you are making $12,000 a month while the ones that really do the work makes $2,000 a month. Look at those figures and see where the state is wasting money.

January 5, 2012 at 8:38 a.m.
Crossville said...

I really think that one of two things is happening here. Either someone didn't put a lot of thought/investigation into this decision OR this is part of a bigger plan. Again, I ask.. WHY WHY WHY close the facility that is the most productive in every area??!!! The statistics have proven that! I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record here but it just BAFFLES me! Everything stated has been either misinformed or fabricated! There is no way that Taft needs $37 million in repairs when it has had new counseling center, school and Security Complex building in 2006, boilers replaced in 2005, dorms and kitchen renovated in 1982, ... there are just too many figures proving it NOT TRUE!! AND WOW!! $12,000 A MONTH!!??? A LOT OF PEOPLE BARELY MAKE THAT IN A YEAR!!

January 5, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.
RebelBuck said...

To be exact about O'Day's salary it's $12,700 a month and Deputy Commish Dawson is $9,144 a month. This is all public knowledge found at the following I think that if the state of Tennessee wants to save some money start at the top of the chain and cut where it will not be detrimental to rural Tennessee, meaning $12,000 and $9,000 a month just don't add up for salaries of someone that sits in an office all day and won't come out and really see what's going on at Taft. Why pay someone that much a month that apparentley knows little to nothing about the institutions they are in charge of????

January 5, 2012 at 11 a.m.
notstupid said...

RebelBuck you are very right they have no clue to what the employees that they are trying to get rid of really do. I bet they have never had a child call them and say thank you for helping me and getting me on the right track. This is exactly what makes it worthwhile for these employees to do a good job. If they can change just one life it is worth it to them. God knows that the employees do not do it for the money because they do not really make that much considering what they have to put up with.

January 5, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.
acerigger said...

Just curious, but does anyone else suppose that CCA or some other "prison for profit" outfit could be standing in the wings and whispering in the commissioner's ear?

January 5, 2012 at 8:12 p.m.
GC said...

I believe that acerigger may have hit the nail on the head....or could it be that the administration is looking for federal funding. There are very few federal dollars that go to DCS facilities so they probably want to place these kids in less restrictive placements and try to get federal funding. It seems to be just about the MONEY......not about the kids. Where in the world will they place the type of young men that Taft deals with? Most of them have had many previous placements that did not work....even at other DCS facilities. It is quite obvious that juvenile crime is rampid and this state has to have placements for aggressive, violent youth. Taft has always been the placement for the state's oldest and most aggressive kids. I know this because I worked there and found the job to be more than I could handle. The employees at Taft do an exceptional job with these kids and have a very high success rate. Many leave with a high school diploma or GED and a vocational skill that can open employment opportunities for them. The staff are dedicated to the success of the kids and have a wealth of experience. There is VERY LITTLE turn over at this center - many many employees have 20 plus years of service. Is the state really going to cause all of these people to lose their chance of full retirement when they have dedicated their careers to helping kids??? Like another comment said - SHAME ON YOU !!! These employees certainly haven't stayed at the center for the money because they aren't paid nearly enough for the tough jobs they do so the longevity of the work force speaks volumes for the institution. I wish them success in their efforts to keep their facility open because I personally know that the work they do can't be measured in dollars and cents - it can be measured by changing the lives of kids.........the state needs to RETHINK this proposal before they make a terrible mistake. I can't believe that this proposal would even be an option. It will be devastating for the employees, the regional economy and the kids if the facility closes.

January 5, 2012 at 9:49 p.m.
outthere said...

Is it possible that the commissioner thinks that if she gets Taft closed she will be able to implode the rest of the Youth Development Centers? There are THREE male YDC’s, not four as has been widely stated. The fourth that is mentioned is a female facility. The PLAN as I understand it, is to close Taft and send the worst from Taft to that girl’s facility and house them there. The problem with that is there is no fence, or lockable doors on that facility. How much is it going to cost to bring that facility up to standard for the male students? The girls are to be sent to privately operated (for profit) institutions. I also understand that the employees at New Visions (the female facility) have already said they won’t work with these “bad boys”. I have thought long and hard as to why O’Day and Dawson want Taft closed. I have come up with a scenario that sort of makes sense. If Taft is closed and the worst of the worst are sent back to the institutions that couldn’t handle them before, those institutions will more than likely implode. O’Day and her cronies will say that the department is ill equipped to deal with these students and will promote private contracts with outside companies (that are there for a profit). Remember she has already closed all the state operated group homes, leaving privately operated for profit company run homes. If you don’t understand, check back into the archives of the Knoxville Sentinel about Mtn. View YDC, and what happened when CCA operated that YDC. See how many lawsuits the state had to pay thanks to CCA. She stated in her presentation to the Governor that she didn’t think any “child” should be incarcerated, and this is a means to that end. Close Taft and Wilder YDC will be next, as there is a new privately operated facility that will be operational next year. (Shelby County Detention Center). Remember, these companies are out to make money. State operated facilities operate on fixed budgets, not for profit. As a taxpayer and knowing what I know, I see no reason to PAY a private company to do what the state employee can do better than anyone out there. Maybe, Just Maybe, she trying to make herself a position for after she leaves state employment. That does make sense now doesn’t it!!

January 5, 2012 at 10:07 p.m.

I would suggest that the officials be made to take care of the children themselves, but that wouldn't be fair.

To the children.

January 5, 2012 at 11:24 p.m.
justsaying94 said...

I am not going to say which person at the meeting said it best, but when he said that the proposal that O'Day gave to Haslam was how he said it with all due respect that the numbers were abit elevated over what the facts are. He said that if you read the proposal and done the math with the facts that it was a no brainer and I have to agree. If Haslam doesn't remove the proposal to close Taft then that could mean one or all of three things,that he can't add or subtract, know how to read,or he just turns a blind eye to the whole thing and say the proposal is very persausive. Since the proposal Haslam was in Dunlap, TN (just 20 miles south of Pikeville) for an opening of a manufactoring plant and was asked to come to Taft and see for himself,which by the way would have been on his way back to Nashville and he stated that he did't have time. Seems to me he could have made time but I guess that shows how much he cares to see for himself what Taft needs or doesn't need, which refers back to one of the points I made earlier. The bottom line is that he doesn't care and doesn't want the truth. The bad thing about the whole sitution is that even a blind man could see what Haslam and O'Day are doing and I hope the lawmakers all across the state see it to,and keep Taft open for the youths that choose the wrong path in life and that Taft is still there to help them get back on the right path!

January 6, 2012 at 1:51 a.m.

While I admit the Private Security conspiracy sounds interesting, it holds no truths. The facts reported are this, Taft is the oldest of these facilities. It cost the most to operate and is in need of the most repairs. Sorry that is 3 strikes and your out. While some have disputed the numbers they have done so without any proof. Those doing the most complaining are doing so for selfish reasons of employment and that is totally understandable. However if and when it is closed it will be done within just a few months of the opening of a larger adult DOC unit in the same area and most if not all employees will be able to find employment there.

January 6, 2012 at 4 a.m.
notstupid said...

While some people like lovetheusaorleave believe that Taft is in need of the most repairs and that it cost the most to operate Taft they are also misinformed. Taft should need the most repairs since it is the oldest facility but there is nothing that has to be fixed right now at this moment. Also, if they would take the water treatment plant and STRCF farm utilities out of the budget for Taft then it would not be most expensive to operate. If they shut Taft down what happens to the water treatment plant and the people that depend on the water from this treatment plant. I don't know if anyone else has thought about this or not but me myself depend on this water. I know they all say this will take place close to the opening of new DOC complex but have you ever thought of all the people that only like a few years until retirement what will they do. Will they get to go to DOC or will they just have to retire before they are ready? Lovetheusaorleave put yourself in these employees shoes and then tell me how you feel or maybe you are use to changing jobs often.

January 6, 2012 at 7:54 a.m.

Noso, I don't want anyone to lose their job but it must be nice to have the option to basically be able to transfer to another job in the same area and with the same employer without the risk of losing any of their benefits. There are thousands of people unemployed that would have been more than happy to have done that. But you say I am misinformed then turn around and state it is the most expensive site to operate. I have noticed this, not one person in management of the center or the DOC have disputed these figures. I would hope they find a way to keep it open but I am afraid with the necessary budget cuts needed it is only a matter of time.

January 6, 2012 at 9:04 a.m.
notstupid said...

No one disputes that as is right now that it is the most expensive but are we really comparing apples to apples here. Taft does have vocational classes for the students which the other facilities do not have. Students have been sent from other facilities for vocational classes. I guess it comes down to do you want to get what you pay for or are we going to go with the cheap route and tell the kids that they are not worth the money we are putting out. These kids are use to being told something like this that is the reason some of them are where they are. Because thier families and communities told them they are not worth thier time. As far as for being able to transfer to another department, there is no promise that this will happen because there is that one word "should" be able to.

January 6, 2012 at 9:44 a.m.
potcat said...

Whats going to replace Taft?

Taft,i have always called it Pikeville, is a Reform i.e."school" Prison for juvinile males under 18 yrs. of age.

Take unemployment out of the equation and lets get down to what Pikeville is for the youth sent there and what is going to replace a prison for juvinile males in the state of Tennesse, in which is a "must have facility".

I have known boys sent to Pikeville from the 1970s and have heard some horrifing stories, Gaurds were involved and it was a very violet and dangerous place.

I have visited there and its a beautiful area, but the buildings have to be ancient.

Someone should do a study of statistics or percentages of Men who went to Pikeville and let them tell you what Pikeville did for them or to them.

January 6, 2012 at 11:06 a.m.
outthere said...

lovetheusaorleave, Let6's look at the REAL numbers. Taft is budgeted at 12.1 million per year. Now, lets look at what is included in that and what's not. WE operated a water treatment plant that supplies water to other folks besides us. Fall Creek Falls, SETRCF, and the community. Cost to Taft for that and the dairy that SETRCF runs accounts for close to a half a million, oh yeah, and the money that the water treatment plant makes goes to F&A, not back to Taft. So now, we are at approx 11.6 million. Lets take off the amount sent back to F&A to the tune of .8 million in 2010 and 1.2 million in 2009. Please realie that we worked the least overtime, created the biggest benifit to the kids we serve. MOre than the other facilities in graduation rates and the least recidivism. Don't get much better than that. Close the best and watch the rest implode. Taxpayers lose again!

January 6, 2012 at 6:18 p.m.

Hey out, I hear yeah. I don't want the place closed and have said it over and over, all I did was re-state the facts the Governors office has and what has been reported. Instead of sending that my way why not try and sending it to Nashville to the people that will be making the decision. But as I also said not one administrator for the facility or DOC is standing up to fight it. I think that is weighing a lot on the decisions as well.

January 6, 2012 at 7:37 p.m.
pikeville said...

These are Nashville's real numbers that are being quoted. It is clear you are not familiar with state government. If you were you would know when a bueuracrat wants something the price tag is low. When they don't it's high. Like 37 million high!! If the true numbers were not being told TYC would have closed years ago. They pass every inspection. This includes State Fire inspections, and accreditation from national associations. Believe what you want. Lets see if Ms.O'day gives the Legislators who are doing their job, gain access to the grounds with the media. That is when the tire will hit the blacktop and their lies will be exposed!! 37 million give me a break!!! Check out their request on Humphrey on the Hill.

January 6, 2012 at 8:29 p.m.
notstupid said...

It is kind of hard for the main administator fight for it to stay open he was hand picked by O'Day and Dawson.

January 7, 2012 at 12:43 p.m.
pikeville said...

Thats right they fired the Superintendant who had been there 2 years just before Christmas. This was done because his eyes and ears weren't good enough, and attempt to demoralize staff. By the looks of the town hall meeting that didn't work.

January 7, 2012 at 4:13 p.m.
Crossville said...

Wow.. I've been out of pocket for a bit. Tonight I have been on here reading the posts and MAN are you kidding, lovetheusaorleave? I mean really? Yes, they did state that the employees "SHOULD" be able to find employment at the new prison facility when it opens in 2013. BUT what about the unemployment rate in that county of nearly 11% already? That is higher than the state OR national average! I'm sure there are unemployed people that really needed those jobs! And no one has said for sure that everyone will get to go over there. The "should" was in there. That is just to make it sound good for the public. Fact is that is a totally separate department and there will be no transfers. Sure, anyone can APPLY for a position there, it does NOT mean they will get it. And furthermore, if you had been keeping up with this situation at all, you would know that those figures HAVE been disputed to Nashville. As it was quoted in one article, if we are tearing buildings down due to their age then the state capital was built in 1859! It has been stated over and over that renevations have been made to these buildings since the 80's. And Taft does not have the highest maintenance either! Fiscal Year 2011: Taft: $51,423.28 (BUT $16,486.80 of that was to the water plant) So to compare apples to apples you would need to deduct that making Taft 34,936.48..Woodland Hills spent $161,390.50, Wilder spent $67,208.63, New Visions spent $38,088.30, Mtn. View spent $36,069.45... hmmmm. Really? Taft spends more in repairs? I think not. Even if you left the water plant on there they would STILL be in 3rd place. And before you state it again, let me just clarify, I see that you are saying you hope it don't close but in the same paragraph you talk as if it should. I do understand that cuts need to be made. I just think they should be spread across the board instead of taking one big chunk at one spot which is going to be devastating to that area AND to the students it serves AND to the other institutions!

January 11, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.
GC said...

Especially the other institutions and to the local detention centers and courts WHEN there are no beds available in the state for juvenile offenders !! Will they just let them go home or place them in a non custodial placement. Better think about the consequences of this.....better keep Taft open !!!!!

January 12, 2012 at 11:22 p.m.
smd1211 said...

Taft may very well be the oldest facility of its kind in the state but that does not mean the proposed improvements and costs are accurate. I believe their most recent re-accreditation with ACA shows that the facilities are adequate to remain open. Aside from that, I go to Taft every year for a service review and they are without question, the best YDC in the state. There are in fact 4 male facilities and 1 female facility currently. When Taft closes, there will only be 3 male facilities and the state will lose the most successful YDC they have. Do I believe the rumors about possible privatization with CCA? You bet I do. That seems to be the MO for this governor and his cabinet. Since I don't know much about other areas, I won't speak on whether or not privatization is the right call for other programs but I can say that it is a bad decision when you are talking about child welfare and juvenile justice programs. There is so much red taps already when you deal with DCS because local court systems are involved. You only increase the log jam when you contract out services but still have a state agency responsible for outcomes. And from my core, I also see a tremendous conflict of interest when you privatize incarceration and correctional duties to a company like CCA. In the end you are talking about a company that benefits from keeping facilities full so I question their motivation for rehabilitation. In the end, O'Day and Haslam erred in June when they closed DCS group homes, citing the operations as a duplication of services already provided by contracted group homes. This in the end was a total lie. Many students in those group homes had completed programs at YDCs and because of their age and status had to return to the YDCs because no contracts were in place to provide necessary services. This is an example of cost-cutting with no regard towards the impact. And that will be seen again if Taft is closed. Haslam and O'Day may believe money will be saved but ultimately, with unacceptable treatment and programs in place, those juveniles will wind up in the adult system and the state will pay anyway. Congratulations on yet ANOTHER wrong decision.

February 1, 2012 at 4:06 a.m.
dappergent said...

The decisions being made by Oday is a slap in the face to all who have made a life comitment in the service of the children in the state of Tennessee. I have personally worked with teenagers for twenty years and to have Oday say I should be able to get a job at the prison in Bledsoe county is an insult. If I wanted to wharehouse convicted fellons I would have started there twenty years ago. I can imaguine all the closed door meetings that have went on over the past couple of years and all of the plotting and scheming to figure out how to staff the new addition. OH wait there is taft (200)they will all go (NOT).The prison has always had a high turnover rate but they only need 400 staff members ???. It Just blows my mind how educated people in the positions they are in get away with making stupid decisions. I hope common sence will prevail in the end.

March 10, 2012 at 5:15 a.m.
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