ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County commissioners want to know the price tag before creating a Board of Workhouse Commissioners, which is required before misdemeanor jail inmates can pick up trash on county roadways.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson has used state felony inmate work crews under armed guard to perform jobs throughout the county since he took office in 2010.
State law requires counties to create a workhouse committee to oversee misdemeanor inmate work programs.
The county’s misdemeanor defendants who are sentenced to community service in Sessions Court are sometimes assigned to the solid waste department to serve their time.
Solid Waste Committee Chairman Mark Linkous told the commission Monday, however, that there haven’t been enough community service people to meet the demand for garbage pickup on county highways.
That’s why there has been a call from the community to utilize inmates to pick up litter along roadways, Linkous noted.
On Monday morning, Linkous agreed to table his proposed resolution creating the Jail Workhouse Committee after some commissioners raised questions about how much those workhouse commissioners would receive in pay and benefits.
The four proposed workhouse commissioners would be paid $25 to attend a monthly meeting and would be paid another $25 and mileage to inspect misdemeanor inmates on a work site at least once per month.
County Mayor Melville Bailey estimated the cost around $4,800 total per fiscal year, but there was a question as to whether the commissioners would be eligible for benefits.
Commissioner Dawson Fields questioned whether the workhouse commissioners would be eligible for health insurance benefits as well, just like county commissioners are.
The final amount budgeted for the program will be determined during 20-17-18 budget hearings, which begin Thursday morning.
Lawson told the Times-News Tuesday that the misdemeanor inmates chosen for litter pickup will be non-violent offenders only, and as with the felony inmate workers, they will receive one day off their sentence for every day they work.
Unlike the felony inmates, however, the litter crews won’t be supervised by armed guards.
All this week employees with the solid waste department have been taking classes to earn Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) certification, which is required by the state for them to supervise inmates.
Lawson said that serving on a litter crew will be a highly sought-after privilege that will be taken away if the inmates misbehave. Any inmate that walks off a litter crew will be charged with escape.
The proposed members of the workhouse commission include: Tim Simpson of Church Hill, who would serve a one-year term; Bill Young of Eidson, who would serve a one-year term; David Browning of Rogersville, who would serve a two-year term; and Jerry Jones of Rogersville, who would serve a two-year term.
Linkous said there was no problem with tabling the resolution for a month so some questions can be answered about commissioner pay. He said he was just trying to get inmates out on the roads a soon as possible.
“I get calls about trash on the side of the road a lot,” Linkous said. “This (workhouse jail status) has been in place since 1994, and we’re just trying to take advantage of it so we can get some people out to pick up trash on the roadways. Why not use the people sitting up there at the (jail) to clean up our roads.?”