Community Services Program set to re-open next week following drug arrests

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A community services program previously under review by Sullivan County’s mayor will reopen next week.

It comes after Mayor Richard Venable temporarily shut down community service work at the Sullivan County Transfer Station in Kingsport following three arrests for illegal drug activity there.

The community services program is designed for non-violent offenders, allowing them to put in community service instead of serving jail time, but the mayor says some of those people took advantage of the program. He hopes changes prevent that in the future.

“I immediately stopped the program because we obviously weren’t providing the oversight that we needed to,” said Venable.

That was after investigators arrested three people supposed to be performing community service work for illegal drug activity. But now, more than four months later, Venable said, “We’re starting it back with proper oversight.”

The county hired a former corrections officer for extra supervision.

“To be with these people from the time they report to the county to the time they go home at the end of the day,” said Venable. “He’s not taking 10 breaks an hour, disappearing off the job, going around the edge of the building, hiding out – he will watch for all of those things.”

Also, Venable says from now on, with the judge’s permission, drug testing will be part of the program. That didn’t exist prior.

And while the mayor says it may not be perfection, it’s progress.

“Will we have a failure? Yes. We’ll have somebody down there that will violate the laws, but I think we’re better set up now to recognize that and deal with it than we were,” Venable said.

When Mayor Venable stopped the program briefly, he had to use part-time labor to cover the work, costing about $3,000 to $4,000 taxpayer dollars a week.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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