Children's Services chief on hot seat over closure of Taft Youth Center

Children's Services chief on hot seat over closure of Taft Youth Center

February 1st, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

The Taft Youth Center is located north of Pikeville, Tenn.

The Taft Youth Center is located north of...

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - State Children's Services Commission Kathryn O'Day found herself on an hour-long hot seat today in the House Government Operations Committee as regional lawmakers tore into Gov. Bill Haslam's plans to shut down Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville.

With an overflow crowd of upset Taft employees as well as officials from Bledsoe and Cumberland counties officials, Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, challenged O'Day on projected savings from closing the facility and her assertions that the facility is the most inefficient among the state's five youth centers.

Sexton also disputed the commissioner's contentions that the facility's 96 teen residents can be safely handled in the other youth centers.

O'Day defended her recommendations to Haslam, a Republican, and said they fit within the governor's push to provide the most efficient services at the lowest cost. Taft has the highest daily cost of incarceration, she said.

Her staffers said almost all the facility's 169-member staff should be able find jobs at a new prison for adults opening nearby.

Government Operations Committee Chairman Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, was also critical of plans to close Taft. He delayed for two weeks "sunset" legislation that would extend the existence of the Department of Children's Services until O'Day responds to the additional questions about the mix of older teens at Taft and other issues.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.