Ongoing budget issues at the statehouse have continued to put county offices in a bind as areas that once relied heavily on the reduced labor cost from inmates to make ends meet must now absorb those labor cost.
Now, county officials are looking for ways to reduce that impact, and have been forced to reduce expenses drastically.
“The county jail contracts are all under fire,” Chris Bryant, Carter County Sheriff said. “The 12 work centers that were shut down were all moved to a private prisons run by a company from California. That’s about $16 million a year that they are spending. With that gone, everyones expenses go up. That affects us. We rely on those workers, the offenders to get stuff done. That’s part of my budget.”
Bryant said the impact of lost workers comes out to about $60,000 a year in labor cost for the jail, adding that the county currently had 274 offenders in custody, — the jails capacity is 186 persons — 72 of which are female.
Bryant said the jail had been spending nearly $30,000 a month on food when he took office, he has reduced the expense to about $15,000 a month since.
“The overcrowding will increase after July 1 because of the state questions,” Bryant said.
Bryant expects State Question 780 and 781 — while already a contentious issue —  to increase jail populations as offenders who were once charged with felonies and/or faced additional penalty’s for not paying court cost and fines will opt to wait out their debt to society in county jail at a tune of $25 a day, currently, each inmate costs the county, on average, $50 a day total to house, including labor cost Bryant said.  
Bryant said his department had renewed efforts in the “war on drugs” as evident by a number of significant meth and heroin bust in recent weeks.
“We’re chipping away at it, little by little,” Bryant said. “We will never be able to stop it, but we can slow it down.
Bryant said he anticipated a return of homegrown meth labs, with higher potencies and a higher overdose rates, with people who had previously been incarcerated for production and distribution having served their time and being released back into society.
“Marijuana is the least of our worries,” Bryant said. “We are seeing more and more meth, and now even heroin come into the area. What can we do to get these people into rehab, and who’s going to pay for it.”

Other issues discussed:

One of the primary functions of county commissioners is maintaining area infrastructure.
“The state has about $800 million set aside at the capitol for roads,” Jerry Alvord Carter County District 3 Commissioner  said.
Alvord expects the state to borrow from the funds to help patch the projected shortfall, forcing a lot of projects to be put off until additional funding can be made available.

Open/concealed carry at the courthouse
A proposed state law would allow open/concealed carry by officials at county courthouses throughout the state.  
“We are living in a changing world,” Bill Baker Carter County District 2 Commissioner said. “Everyone needs to be protected. I hate to say this, but you tend to make a lot of people angry in these positions. We become a target.”

“I’m the Andy Griffith type,” Joe David McReynolds Carter County District 1 Commissioner said. “I want to go and talk to people and try to work it out. I don’t want to carry a gun, and I hope that I don’t get the feeling that I need to carry one.”

“The less people that carry guns, the better off I am,” Bryant said. “The courthouse is a place where we have a lot of elected officials, and a lot of high crimes. I’m all for the right to bear arms … but I don’t support that. My job is to make sure everyone stays safe. We want to make sure that this is a safe environment.”

“I’ve been poked at, rightfully so, for being from California,” Alvord said. “I’d like to get some credit for having left there. One of my biggest fears is for this place becomes like that…  so overly regulated, so over controlled by special interest groups. It boils down to personal beliefs. How many were carrying in the courthouse before this was passed. We have no idea. When these things come up, there is always both sides, and neither is really wrong. This is a freedom that has been granted us as Americans in a unique fashion for a very long time. Where I struggle, this isn’t the old west nor should it be the old west, we shouldn’t get silly with it. In this particular case, it is limited to elected officials only. We would like to be protected. Hopefully we are moving things in the right direction, but there needs to be intelligence worked into these decisions.”