Community Corrections programs to separate

BUCKHANNON – The Lewis-Upshur-Braxton County Community Corrections program may only encompass two of those three counties – Lewis and Upshur – in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

After learning about ongoing problems the program has been experiencing with the Braxton County branch of the program, the Upshur County Commission on Thursday gave program director Micah Harris its approval to write a grant for services in only Lewis and Upshur counties for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Harris told the commission that the Community Corrections board of directors had discussed only providing services to individuals living in counties that comprise the 26th Judicial Circuit.

“At our last board meeting, which was last Monday, it came up in general discussion of maybe just looking at 26th judicial circuit – as in covering Lewis and Upshur and letting Braxton write their own grant – assisting them in writing that grant – but trying to just take care of our two counties now,” Harris said.

The program has experienced ongoing financial and enrollment problems at its headquarters in Sutton in Braxton County, she added.

“We’ve had a lot of issues financially they’ve never paid their entire amount of cash match until this year,” Harris said. “We’ve had issues with the number of referrals that we have down there, so it’s extremely hard to pay two staff members to sit down there when there’s 15 clients.”

Meanwhile, only one staff member is stationed at the Lewis County Day Report Center to manage 100 clients, she said.

“It seems like there’s always an issue down there – we’re not getting referrals, we’re not getting money,” Harris said. “We’re having to second-guess ourselves now with everything we do because there’s some people down there that are calling Charleston on everything we do and I’m afraid for the integrity of our other programs that the issues we face down there are going to kind of, for lack of a better term, give us a black eye for our other two counties up here.”

Since 2010, the three-county program has only received 122 referrals from Braxton County, while it received 129 from Lewis County during last year alone, Harris said.

In addition, administrators of the program in Braxton County have been discussing plans to break off from Lewis and Upshur counties and pair up with Clay County in the near future.

“So we (the board of directors) said, ‘Why not do it now? Why don’t you take care of you, we’ll take care of us,'” Harris said.

The commission, the program’s fiscal agent, gave a consensus that Lewis and Upshur counties should remain together, while Braxton should break off and seek its own funding. Harris said the grant for Community Corrections program funding is due in Charleston March 5.

“It would be my opinion that we go back to 26th judicial and take care of Lewis and Upshur which is doing a lot better,” Commissioner Troy “Buddy” Brady said.

Commissioner Donnie Tenney agreed.

“Our chief concern is we make our system operate and we tried it, and you’re willing to help them,” he said, “and they expressed a desire to go in with Clay so they would be in their judicial circuit. I would give them same consensus.”

Harris and Cpl. Rodney Rolenson of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department – project manager for the program – will bring the commission’s consensus to its board of directors before a final decision is made.

Should Braxton County split off from Lewis and Upshur, services will be provided at the Braxton County Day Report Center through June 30, Harris said.

Contact Katie Kuba by email at Follow her on Twitter at IMT