Bradley County Commission adjusts proposed probations budget

Bradley County Commission adjusts proposed probations budget

June 21st, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Rich Kienlen, director of the Bradley County Misdemeanor Probation Department, addresses the Bradley County Commission in this file photo.

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Bradley County Commission has agreed to return $10,000 from a proposed alternative sentencing workhouse project to the Misdemeanor Probation Department as part of the proposed 2013-14 county budget.

Commissioners voted 9-3 to send back a share of $25,000 the department gave for the proposed workhouse project. Commissioners Mel Griffth and Ed Elkins and Chairman Louie Alford voted no.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber recommended the move after Misdemeanor Probation Director Rich Kienlen asked for $9,300 to fill an officer position in January and give raises to five probation officers.

Those officers hold four-year degrees and earn less than $30,000 a year each after more than seven years of service, Kienlen said.

The $15,000 remaining for the alternative sentencing workhouse is a "good start" for a proposal that likely will cost more than $25,000 in the end, Commissioner Bill Winters said.

"I try to understand the overall picture, but I'm one of the departments that can bring in money and not all departments do bring in money," Kienlen said. "But at the end of the day I feel I would be remiss if I didn't ask for my officers that salary adjustment."

His office has turned in more than $61,000 in fee revenue to the county this fiscal year, Kienlen said. The department has not cost Bradley County taxpayers anything since it began 10 years ago -- in fact, it has brought in more than $240,000 in the last four years, he said.

"I was never set up to be a moneymaker, I was set up to be self-sufficient," Kienlen said. "Fortunately, because of the crime rate, I have been a moneymaker. When you take into consideration the times of the economy, to give back $60,000 is a good chunk of change."

The department also is short an officer, which saved $11,000 in this fiscal year, he said.

Although Kienlen's budget calls for the replacement to be hired in January, he said he needs the position filled now. His eight officers now average about 600 cases each. The now handles almost twice as many cases as it did in 2006, he said.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis expressed concern over allowing Misdemeanor Probations to make salary adjustments outside of a 1.5 percent raise in his proposed budget for all full-time county employees.

"I think it sends the wrong message to the other departments," Davis said. "There's many departments out there that have no means of bringing in revenue. They're here simply to serve the community."

The Bradley County Commission is scheduled to voted on the 2013-14 budget July 1.

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