Community Services Program will continue following drug arrests, with added supervision

KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – Sullivan County’s mayor says a community services program under review after allegations of drug activity will continue, but with added supervision.

Mayor Richard Venable told News Channel 11 in May he was looking closely at the program after law enforcement arrested three people for illegal drug activity while they were supposed to be performing community service at the Sullivan County Transfer Station.

Two of the people investigators charged were Sullivan County employees responsible for supervising the workers.

Mayor Venable said he has not sent community service people back to this recycling center yet, and right now, he is using part-time labor from the general public, costing about $3,000 to $4,000 a week.

That’s why he said he is eager to get more supervision in place, to get the Community Services Program, an alternative to jail, back up and running within the next few weeks.

“We’ll have more supervision than we’ve had in the past, more hands on I’d say,” Venable said.

The extra supervision includes a long-time and trusted county employee from maintenance services staying on site.

“We would have a county employee collect them on a bus here, drive them to the recycling center, let them off, tell their supervisor down there we’ll be back and get them at 4 o’clock,” the mayor said. “We’ll keep the supervisor that takes them to the job site there, and he will observe their working.”

It’s something Venable said comes at no additional expense right now.

Another change he said, with the judge’s permission, they may also institute random drug checks.

“If you show up and you’ve used drugs then you’re not going to be in the program and you’re going to go back to the judge and probably go to jail,” Venable said.

With county employees also arrested for drug charges, Venable said the county will take a closer look and tighten up on background checks for new hires.

“I think the important thing is community safety, and we’re going to gear up to make sure we put safe people out there working.”

Mayor Venable said he and Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson are also looking into a work release program for more serious but non-violent offenders, because that program will have sworn officers on hand.

Venable said that will take months to implement.

District Attorney General Barry Staubus said he is still investigating two other county employees who were supervisors at that transfer station.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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