Opposition to closing of Pikeville's Taft Youth Center grows

photo Taft Youth Center, located north of Pikeville, Tenn.
Arkansas-Ole Miss Live Blog

JASPER, Tenn. -- The list of those in opposition to the state's move to close Bledsoe County's Taft Youth Development Center got a little longer in Marion County in recent weeks.

Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Jay Blevins said a judicial delegation encompassing the entire East Tennessee region has affirmed its opposition to the Pikeville, Tenn., facility's closure.

"Everybody in East Tennessee, both Republicans and Democrats, have stated their objections to it," he said.

Taft is the oldest facility of its kind, Blevins said, and it's also the best.

"Their recidivism rate is as good as it gets," he said. "It's no Harvard or Princeton, but it is a facility where these kids can get an education. I certainly utilize Taft every week. It would be a shame to see the facility shut down."

In January, the Marion County Commission voted unanimously to draft a resolution in support of keeping Taft open, which will be sent to state legislators when it is approved later this month.

Late last week, the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a similar resolution.

Kimball Mayor David Jackson said that, even with all the opposition, the state seems determined to close the facility.

"We need to have Taft here to try to get the kids who need it help and assistance," he said. "Maybe [this resolution] will help a little bit. I think it's going to be a hard chore to get the decision [to close Taft] overturned, but I think we need to make an effort."

Blevins said closing Taft will make the public less secure.

"Basically what you're going to see is people that need to be in a lockdown facility will be placed in foster homes or group homes," he said. "When that starts happening and bad people start running the streets, then maybe [state officials] will change their tune."

Marion County Commission Chairman Les Price said he's afraid the county's efforts will fall on deaf ears.

"Given the recent redistricting news, I'm not sure what kind of weight our resolution will carry," he said.

"I think their mind is already made up," Kimball Alderman Johnny Sisk said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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