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Saturday, October 06, 2018

Cocke Corrections Partnership to discuss alternatives
Members of the Cocke County Corrections Partnership Committee met Thursday evening and took under consideration the current status of the two Cocke County jails. The committee agreed the county faces three priorities; address needed repairs to the current jails, resolving pay and staffing issues in the jails and future plans for the jails. Sheriff Armando Fontes told the members that he is working to make repairs to the annex jail to get the facility into compliance with state fire regulations. But repairing the locking systems on cell doors will cost between $2,500 and $3,000 each. Efforts also are underway to upgrade exterior jail openings to prevent "drug drops". The sheriff said jailer retention issues are his #1 concern. He said he is six jailers short of the number recommended by state jail officials. Fontes said since April he has hired 18 jailers however the same number have left. Committee Chair Gayla Blazer asked the sheriff why the turnover has been so high in the jail. "You have a generation that doesn't want to work and we aren't competitive(in pay) with other counties," responded the sheriff. He added that liability is an issue as a result of short staffing. "You can be overcrowded safely if you have adequate staff," he explained. While the Tennessee Corrections Institute has recommended nine jailers per shift for the facilities, there currently are five per shift. Plans are underway to increase the number of inmates on work release and the sheriff said he is exploring the possibility of establishing a half-way house for released inmates. He said 80 percent of inmates are awaiting disposition of their case, and suggested if the courts moved cases more quickly the overcrowding would be reduced. Another concern is the jail roof which likely will cost in excess of $250,000 to repair. The county for some time has been trying to decide if a new jail is needed, whether the current facilities can be expanded or if a combined jail/justice center is the solution. Mayor Crystal Ottinger said two property owners in Newport have offered property for a new facility. Commissioner Forrest Clevenger argued against closing the current courthouse "because that would kill downtown." Members agreed to invite MBI architects to talk about a possible jail similar to the facility in Sevier County, and they asked Commissioner Gary Carver to facilitate discussions with outside firms to develop a direction for a jail. Chair Blazer also asked the sheriff to research surrounding county jail salaries and present a possible pay scale to address the jailer turn-over issue.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

  • Partnership update
  • Cocke Circuit Court pleas
  • Ealy looses her RN license
  • April employment numbers
  • Johnson execution

    Thursday, May 16, 2019

  • Cocke Finance Committee
  • Casada saga continues
  • Roberts arrest
  • Ownby arrest

    Wednesday, May 15, 2019

  • Newport City Council approves new budget
  • Dykes named Big Red coach
  • Tennessee crime stats
  • Memorial Day travel

    Tuesday, May 14, 2019

  • Cocke Finance Committee
  • Appalachian Trail killing
  • Kidnapping arrest
  • Gasoline prices move lower

    Friday, May 10, 2019

  • Cocke County rafting industry continues its growth
  • Cocke County Finance Committee
  • Shadow of the Smokies Trail

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