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City Voting to Approve Safety Center Tuesday

The Knoxville City Council will vote its approval or disapproval for the first time on the jail diversion center, or safety center, that has been the topic of debate in Knox County for the last several months Tuesday night.

The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center is for a 72-hour treatment facility for people with mental health issues or addiction problems who would otherwise go to jail for low-level offenses.

The Council will vote on a resolution that will allow Mayor Madeline Rogero to work on a contract between the city, county and the Helen Ross McNabb Center.

If approved, the Council will agree to pay $400,000 a year for three years for the center and will agree to give a one-time donation of $200,000 to renovate the proposed facility. The three-year contract is with the Helen Ross McNabb Center to operate the place.

The center is planned for 3343 Dewine Road, near Western Avenue in Councilwoman Brenda Palmer’s district.

City Attorney Rob Frost said councilmembers have been asked not to comment on the center because an appeal has been made from the Metropolitan Planning Commission decision on the use for the property and the Council will be hearing the appeal in April. Frost said Council should hear the appeal impartially so they shouldn’t communicate about the issue outside the Council meeting.

The city doesn’t have a say in where the project will be located, Palmer said Monday. Tuesday’s vote is strictly tied to funding. It is a county project and they made the decision on where the center would be located, she said.

The County is to vote on the center Monday. If approved, the County would provide $600,000 a year for three years.

Grants and more grants

The Council will vote to apply for a handful of grants that, if awarded, will assist Knoxville Police Department officers.

  • $300,000 for the Justice Assistance Grant from the state of Tennessee that would go toward the Knoxville Police Department hiring a volunteer advocate to work with community partners to match at-risk youth with mentors.

  • $195,000 (with a $48,750 City match) for the Victims of Crime Act grant from the State of Tennessee that would provide training for staff and volunteers and educational materials for violent crime victims and their families.

  • $75,000 from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office that would give funding for overtime pay for officers for additional patrols for high risk areas for people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • $10,000 from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office that would give funding for overtime pay for officers for additional patrols of high risk pedestrian areas and high risk times for pedestrian-involved accidents.

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