Gov. Bill Haslam said today that closing the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County is part of his overall effort to streamline state government and offer services at less cost.
"We feel like we were hired to deliver the very best value for the lowest tax and that's what we're trying to do," Haslam told the Chattanooga Rotary Club. "Everybody says government is too big and you should cut it and run it like a business. But every time you make one of these decisions to cut some service, some people don't like it."
Haslam said the state's five youth development centers across Tennessee are only about 70 percent full.
"I think it's more economical for the state to have four centers that are about 90 percent full," he said. "That will save us four to five million dollars a year."
The job losses from the Taft center closing will be offset, at least for some workers, by a new state prison being built in Bledsoe County, Haslam said.
The governor said he also is getting criticism for proposing the shutdown of the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville less than a mile from his home. The center has 390 employees and houses 90 patients.
"We're very confident that community providers can take care of those folks cheaper than what we're doing," Haslam said.