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Saturday August 29th, 2015 8:41AM

Couch to consolidate male, female work release programs

By Staff
GAINESVILLE - The work release inmate program in Hall County is being realigned, a move Sheriff Gerald Couch says will save the county money and free some officers for other duty.

Couch said the consolidation of the two programs under one roof at the jail's main building on Barber Road is a way to reduce what he called "the department's financial footprint."

The male work release program currently is housed in a stand alone facility, also on Barber Road. The female work release program is being operated out of a building on Vine Street that once housed the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center. Couch said maintaining both of those buildings has been a financial burden on the sheriff's department.

He said the facility for the male work release program will be used as a storage building, while the building on Vine Street will be turned over to Hall County Government for use or for sale.

The sheriff estimates the cost savings of moving both programs into the main jail facility will be as much as $1 million annually.

Part of the savings will come in the form of manpower, according to Couch. While he does not intend to eliminate positions, he does plan to reassign at least four officers.

In a news release, Couch detailed where those four might serve:

~Creation of the Community Service Officer (CSO), whose duties include manning a newly created front desk position in the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center. Among other things, the CSO's duties will include taking incident reports, which will reduce the need for patrol officers to leave their patrol functions to come to the office to complete paperwork.

~Creating an additional School Resource Officer to better protect and serve our community and school system.

~Creation of an additional Training Officer position. This will enable the training staff, which hasn t been increased in over 20 years, to better train and prepare our officers to serve the community.

~Creating an additional Courthouse Deputy position to provide better security and service. Court Services has not added a Deputy position in over 11 years, despite the addition of more judges and courts.

"With the re-allocation of these positions, we re managing our existing personnel to best fit the needs of the community and the Sheriff s Office, as opposed to just adding personnel and costs. These are not staff-level positions, but operational Deputies who will have a positive impact on the services we provide," said Couch.

Couch also noted that an additional benefit to consolidation is the potential to increase the number of inmates assigned to the work release program to about 75.

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