The exchanges came during a Thursday night forum sponsored by the Carrollton-Carroll County League of Women Voters. The answers were in response to a question from the audience about money being given to a nonprofit NAACP program.
Chappell noted that the program in question is the Re-Entry Program, with which the NAACP is no longer involved. The program helps inmates coming out of incarceration find jobs in the community.
In its recent budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013, the Board of Commissioners gave $10,000 to the Re-Entry Program. The decision came over the objections of district commissioners Kevin Jackson, Vicki Anderson and Ashley Hendrix, who voted against the budget, which passed by a 4-3 vote.
“Carroll County is one of 24 counties (in Georgia) that has a (prison) work camp,” Chappell said. “We spend $3.3 million per year of county taxpayer money on the work camp. We receive $1.8 million back from the state of Georgia for housing them. They pay us $20 per inmate, per day. That leaves a big gap so we have to get that much work out of the inmates.”
Chappell said when he came into office, the county wasn’t getting its money’s worth from the inmates.
“We’re getting it now,” he said. “I’m proud of their efforts and what everyone does. They have a good Re-Entry Program to help inmates. I support it fully, as does the majority of the Board of Commissioners.”
Walt Hollingsworth, one of Chappell’s challengers for the chairman’s seat in the July 31 primary, gave a different opinion.
“I think it’s wrong to spend your money,” Hollinsworth said, addressing his comments to the audience. “It’s your money and if you want to give it away to somebody, it should be your choice. This is a very giving and caring community.”
Marty Smith, the other candidate challenging Chappell, had even more to say on the issue.
“That’s something that needs to go in front of the people,” Smith said. “I don’t need to spend your tax dollars by giving them away to a profit or nonprofit. Where does it end? We don’t have the income and we’re already behind on revenue.”
Smith said such giving choices should be made in the home. He added that several churches have similar programs, but none of them come to the Board of Commissioners for money.
“We represent you as the citizens of Carroll County,” Smith said. “We can find ways to help them (nonprofit organizations) raise money, but with your tax dollars, I’m against it.”
Jackson, who is up for re-election, said he was probably the reason that question was asked the candidates.
“For the past three years, I haven’t supported the initiative you’re talking about,” Jackson said. “For the past two years, I tried to remove it from the budget. We do have nonprofits inside our budget. Once they get there, they’re hard to remove. That’s why I fought so hard to try to stop putting another one there. I think you’re perfectly capable of making decisions to give your own money. I know five churches in my district who are doing the same thing (as Re-Entry) with zero cost to the taxpayer.”
“We have to be careful when spending taxpayer money,” said Slade Jenkins, Jackson’s opponent in the District 5 race. “Our church has something set up the same at what the NAACP is doing.
“I also understand that churches sometime need help and I don’t have a big issue with helping them. People who go to church are taxpayers too. As far as the $10,000 donation, well, you know that’s something the citizens need to vote on.”
Hendrix, who is seeking re-election in District 3, said she feels better about giving money to a nonprofit that benefits the entire community, such as Keep Carrollton Beautiful.
“Last year they wanted $5,000 and this year, $10,000,” Hendrix said, referring to the Re-Entry Program. “I wouldn’t be surprised if next year it’s $15,000. It should be left up to the people who they want to give their dollars to.”
Tommy Lee, who is challenging Hendrix in District 3, said, “I didn’t get to vote on the issue and it’s a good thing to give to charities, but I think the taxpayer should have control.”
The other District 3 candidate, Jason Wilcox. took a slightly different approach.
“Let me just be blunt,” he began. “It’s a nonprofit and there’s many resources for nonprofits. If they do their research right, they can get plenty of contributions. The Re-Entry Program deals with prisoners re-entering society. I think the issue here is that we’re trying to apply treatment rather than preventive maintenance for the problem.”
Wilcox said he did some research and found that 89 percent of prisoners re-entering society are men.
“The problem at the roots is family values,” he said. “If you get your house in order, and your family in order, you don’t have to worry about high prison populations. If you don’t have to worry about high prison populations, the Re-Entry Program won’t be an issue.”