JPO jobs rescue: the rest of the story

Last week, The Blount Countian reported that the Blount County Commission appropriated $12,000 toward more than $90,000 needed to save the jobs of two juvenile probation officers ( JPO) from elimination as a result of cost-cutting by the state Administrative Office of Courts (AOC). That was accurate, as far as it went. But it didn’t go far enough.

A large-scale cooperative effort on the part of a number of agencies and individuals was made to subscribe the substantial amount over and above the commission contribution needed to continue those jobs for the 2011 fiscal year. The effort was supported by the agencies and individuals shown below. The newspaper did not identify these agencies and individuals in its report of the commission action last week.

Agencies and individuals participating in JPO jobs rescue Blount County Health Care Authority $46,978.62 (full funding of one job)

Blount County District Attorney grant $3500.00 (authorized by District Attorney Pamela Casey)

Blount County law library fund allocation $10,950.70 (authorized by Circuit Judge Steven King)

Blount County Community Services Fund $2500.00

(distributed from commission funds made available by Elwyn Thomas)

Blount County Legislative delegation $7500.00 (from monies made available by Jeremy Oden, Scott Beason, and Clay Scofield)

Additional increment from AOC $9592.29

Balance subscribed by county commission $12,000.00

An additional $26,721.34 had previously been made available at King’s direction from Law Library funds, to keep the jobs funded through September, the end of the 2010 fiscal year.

King also contacted legislators to secure their pledges, and, along with juvenile probation chief Meleah Davis and District Judge Sherry Burns, called on Commission Chairman David Standridge, to appeal for the final allocation subsequently pledged by the county commission.

Davis and drug court judge John Dobson made the presentation to the Blount County Health Care Authority that resulted in that major contribution.

“Meleah Davis worked extremely hard during the course of this effort,” King said. “I think people should be aware of that,” he said.

“It has been a long road, a huge job, and a joint effort on the part of a lot of people to accomplish this,” said Burns, to whom the juvenile probation office reports. “It’s been resolved now, at least for the coming year. I’d like to thank all those who worked so hard and contributed so much to make that possible,” she said.

The juvenile probation office handles problems related to truancy, drug abuse, and other behaviors referred to it by the two school systems in the county. It monitors school attendance, curfew compliance, drug screening, counseling, mental health treatment, community service performance, and detention placement, along with other matters referred by the court.

Loss of two juvenile probation jobs would have reduced the office’s staffing by half and seriously compromised its effectiveness, according to Burns’s initial appeal to the county commission for assistance.