Commission workshop recycles same concerns about McNabb – Claiborne Progress program
The county could be a small step closer to joining the Helen Ross McNabb inmate drug program.
Few, if any, new questions were raised during an extended workshop organized by the Claiborne County Commission. Commissioners spent about 90 minutes rehashing the same concerns raised in previous meetings – two of the main issues being funding and âthe buildingâ.
About eight months ago, the commission unanimously agreed to purchase a metal building to house the program inmates should the CRA grant of $ 714,000 be approved.
The county received the 70/30 matching grant, which meant that $ 500,000 in funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission would be added to the county coffers and earmarked for the drug program. The county would be responsible for the remaining $ 214,000.
Questions started circulating earlier this year about the building. However, none of the 21 commissioners wanted to explain why the building was unacceptable other than to say that the price of $ 175,000 seems a little high.
Dan Spurlock, who oversees Stand in the Gap Coalition, has been asked to act as a consultant. Spurlock said he thinks the structure is not too expensive.
âThe building is commercial grade 3,000 square feet with 25 beds, two apartments in the back, a full laundry room with a full commercial kitchen. It’s configured exactly for what you’re talking about, âSpurlock said.
Commissioner Juanita Honeycutt broke a piece of ice at the May committee meeting when she first raised her concerns about the issue of county liability. Honeycutt took up the subject again during the workshop.
She suggested going ahead with the purchase, stipulating that the building be turned over to Helen Ross McNabb for exclusive use in the inmate drug program. If the program fails, the act will revert to the county, she said.
âIn my mind, that would strengthen our partnership and our confidence in Helen Ross McNabb. A lot of people think of county responsibility, âHoneycutt said.
Sharon Reid, Director of Services for Hamblen County, and Jason Lay, CFO and Vice President of the McNabb Center answered questions during the workshop. Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain was in attendance and spoke briefly about the program as it was designed in his county.
Lay said he had no problem with the county relinquishing the building. However, this could interfere with the grant match.
Claiborne County Mayor Joe Brooks said he would check with CRA officials on the matter.
Commissioner Kim Large said she was concerned about security concerns, particularly between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. when women would not be monitored.
“Is anyone watching the security cameras?” What if a fight breaks out, âLarge said.
Reid said the cameras are not monitored but are recording 24/7 for playback in case something happens. She said the program aims to develop coping skills rather than relying solely on a counselor to solve problems. The women receive daily and / or weekly individual therapy sessions as part of a structured program, she said.
Participants will receive several weeks of intensive therapy before starting to work or go out in public.
The program is designed for non-violent inmates who have already served a substantial portion of their sentence. Only people deemed safe by the judge will be eligible for the program.
Commissioner Steve Brogan said he was still not clear on the financial side of the contract. Brogan pointed out what he said were inconsistencies, particularly with staff salaries.
He asked why the contract figures are only for 18 months when the program is supposed to last three years.
That’s less than $ 100,000 each year for the five employees, he said.
âWhere does the rest of the money for these salaries come from? It is not enough if you are going to have them supervised. In my opinion, it will not be a three-year program. It will be a year and a half program, âsaid Brogan.
Mayor Brooks explained the schedule. He said it would take seven months before the first cohort of women was admitted to the program. At that point, we would start subtracting money for staff salaries.
âThe first 18 months is the data reporting period to justify giving us the money. The remaining money is still there for the remaining nine or 10 months of the program, âBrooks said.
Commissioner Zach Mullins asked Lay what would happen if the county could not find the required inmates for each 12-week cohort. He wondered if the county would lose some of the grant money if eight inmates did not qualify in each session.
Lay said it was his experience that the CRA would allow those funds to flow to the next cohort.
Commissioner Whitt Shuford spent a moment near the end of the workshop talking about the success of the McNabb program in neighboring Hamblen County. He reiterated some of the details Mayor Brittain disclosed earlier in the meeting. He said that within a year, around 27 women had seen their lives improve.
According to Brittain, the county had invested about $ 90,000 per year to maintain the program after the grant ended.
Shuford expanded on the subject.
âIf after three years, when this grant expires and we’re forced to make some tough decisions, if we save the lives of 27 women in this county every year, I don’t think any of them ( taxpayers) don’t go out of their way when we put this tax or tax on them for things they can’t see. If we were to find $ 100,000 a year and save the lives of 27 women in this county, I don’t think there is anyone in this county who will look at someone sitting here (on commission) and will say “don’t vote for it,” said Shuford.
Kyle Prichard, pastor of The Hill Church who oversees the state-certified Live Free Recovery program, spoke to the audience. He questioned the reluctance of the commission to move forward with the program and the lack of enthusiasm to even visit the metal building.
“Are you all voting on something you haven’t even gone to see in the building?” It’s a little scary. There are other drug programs in the community that are ready to help support this, âsaid Prichard. “It’s obvious. You have a building already ready to go. Let’s run with it.
If the property is put back on the table for purchase, the county would have about $ 39,000 to spend for its share of the game. One solution would be the purchase of a transport vehicle to transport women to and from work and appointments.
The Claiborne Commission is expected to return to this topic at its next meeting, scheduled for June 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the main courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public.