County to give part of fee to CASA, direct chamber funds use

Dickson County will begin funneling some of its court fees to a program designed to advocate for abused and neglected children in the judicial system and will place additional restrictions on the money it gives to the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce under proposals given preliminary approval Monday night. Under a resolution presented at Monday’s work session, the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association of Dickson County, or CASA, could receive up to $10,000 annually starting with the 2016-17 budget. CASA organizations across the country screen, train and support volunteers appointed by courts to advocate for abused and neglected children in the justice system. The volunteers work along with guardians ad litem appointed for children “to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes,” according to the National CASA Association website. “Volunteers stay will each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home,” the website says. A Dickson County chapter of CASA has recently re-organized and has been raising funds before it begins volunteer recruitment and training. Under the resolution presented by Commissioner Booty Reed, CASA of Dickson County will receive $42 from a $45 victims’ assistance fee collected on local court cases up to a maximum of $10,000. CASA will begin receiving a share of the fee after the Child Advocacy Center for the 23rd Judicial District receives $47,500. CAC, which conducts forensic interviews of children alleged to be victims of neglect or abuse, currently gets $42 of the fee with a projected total of $47,500 for the current fiscal year. The resolution presented Monday says starting with the new budget, CAC will continue to receive $42 of each fee collected up to $47,500 annually. After reaching that amount, $42 of the fee will be distributed to CASA of Dickson County up to $10,000 annually. The remaining $3 of the fee goes to the court clerk’s office for administration of the fees. The resolution states that any fees collected above the $47,500 for CAC and $10,000 for CASA will be held in reserve by the county to use for purposes permitted by the 2007 resolution that authorized the fee. Another resolution presented at the work session places additional restrictions on how the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce can use the money it receives from the county’s hotel/motel tax. In 2007 the commission passed a requirement that 30 percent of those funds be used to promote tourism, which is about $58,500 in the current budget’s contribution of $195,000. Rial said a new resolution will further define how the remaining 70 percent of the county’s contribution will be used with 60 percent, or about $117,000, dedicated to economic and community development and the remaining 10 percent, about $19,500, to be used for other chamber operations. Rial said the economic and community development committee he serves on, along with Dickson Mayor Don Weiss Jr., Dickson County Industrial Development Board Chairman Donald Richardson and the current and immediate past chairmen of the chamber’s board, wants to provide more definition of the director’s job and chamber mission. “I think we need to be accountable for each dollar on that. That way we can measure him and his success and the chamber’s success in economic and community development and tourism by defining these funds,” Rial said. The mayor said a resolution will be presented at the commission’s upcoming regular session. With three members absent and the 4th District seat vacant, the eight commission members present voted unanimously to forward both resolutions to the June 20 regular session for final approval. The changes will take effect with the new budget starting July 1.