published Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Bradley County seeks more seed money for workhouse

Ed Elkins
Ed Elkins
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County officials are considering increasing startup funding for a proposed workhouse facility from $15,000 to $35,000.

In a recent meeting with the Bradley County Finance Committee, Richard Kienlen, director of the county's misdemeanor probation department, asked that $20,000 out of $50,000 in excess fees collected by his department be allocated toward the workhouse project instead of the county general fund.

"If we do something toward doing this [the workhouse], we would have that money for architect fees and that kind of stuff," said Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins, Finance Committee chairman.

Current startup funding for the workhouse project is $15,000, which was generated by probation fees last year.

The panel decided to postpone a decision on the funding increase until members received a clearer forecast of county revenue projections for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

"I'm just worried about the 'big picture' revenues," said J. Adam Lowe, vice chairman of the Bradley County Commission.

The county's budget proposal is expected to be presented to commissioners on June 2.

The Bradley County Mayor's Office is working on parameters for bid proposals for a workhouse facility that would have either 128 beds or 64 beds, with the option to double capacity later, Kienlen said.

The proposed facility would offer an avenue of alternative sentencing for misdemeanor offenders, allowing them to leave for work during the day and charging them housing fees, officials said.

A 128-bed facility, filled to capacity, could net $19,400 a month, according to previous figures presented by Kienlen.

Once debt service on the facility's construction is paid off, that income would triple, he said.

Income for housing state inmates calculates heavily into the facility's sustainability, at least until its construction debt is paid off, officials said. Funding for state inmates is $35 per day, compared with $25 for county inmates.

Plans call for taking state inmates in excess of those budgeted for the county's correctional facility, which falls under the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, Kienlen said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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