Both Mayor Charles Snapp of Walnut Ridge and Mayor Lanny Tinker of Hoxie were quoted this week by the Times Dispatch having concerns about Sheriff Yates stating he was closing the current work program due to liability risk and a lack of qualified inmates. Sheriff Yates expressed that fewer and fewer inmates qualified for the program and the safety and liability concerns worried the department.

Hoxie and Walnut Ridge Mayors have both expressed concerns, both cities relied on the inmate labor to help offset cost. Mayor Tinker told the TD that he estimated the inmate labor saved the City of Hoxie around $50,000 per year naming it as the single largest issue effecting the budget this year. Mayor Snapp also stated that the city was already running with a minimum crew and increases to minimum wage passed in 2014 will have an adverse effect on the city. Mayor Snapp stated the lack of inmate labor is going to mean there won’t be enough work force to keep up with road patches, limb pickup and clean ups the way the city has been continuing saying there is not enough money to replace that labor, which means there will be slower progress on many city projects. Hoxie Mayor Tinker said the closing of the program means two full time positions will be gone, one on the water department and one on the garbage truck. Mayor Tinker was also quoted as saying residents may have to choose either a tax increase or a cut in services.

Sheriff Yates began cuts to the program earlier in the year and stated that he’d hoped to work through issues sparing the inmate release program but said it was more than the department could handle. Walnut Ridge and Hoxie are not the only beneficiaries of the work release program, several festivals around the county have benefited from the labor including the Portia Picnic, Lawrence County Fair, Lawrence County Road Department, Foothills Festival, Beatles at the Ridge and several trash pickup crews used around the county.

Sheriff Yates went on to say that he did not expect the release program to be reinstated when the new jail is completed due to the fact that it is expected to house more felons than misdemeanors limiting the amount of qualified workers.

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For more information on the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office visit .