Gates of the 12th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will officially open next Wednesday night in Manchester and that means law enforcement agencies will be working extra hours.
The influx of a crowd of 80,000 fans has historically resulted in arrests and fines, most for minor offenses, that have brought in thousands of dollars to Coffee County.
According to figures released by the Coffee County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Bonnaroo fines and collections for the 2013 festival generated $621,127.75.
The money is shared by various county offices and programs with a portion going to the state.
According to Circuit Court Clerk Heather Duncan, the distribution from 2013 is as follows:
— $97,235 to the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department Drug Fund;
— $143,296 to the Drug Task Force;
— $50,950 to the Manchester Police Department Drug Fund;
— $127,550 to the County General Fund, which is the operating account for the county budget;
— $52,024 to the state of Tennessee for fees, which includes litigation tax, and for the non-DUI alcohol and drug addiction fund;
— $80,222.75 to the Coffee County Drug Court.
Duncan said the money collected does not reflect unrelated fines imposed so far this year.
At Bonnaroo, those charged with possession of a small amount of drugs are issued citations to appear in court.
“We then send out a notice to those individuals and remind them of their court date,” Duncan said. She noted that most of those who are cited pay before their court date rather than return to Manchester to appear in court.
Those caught with a large amount of drugs are booked into the Coffee County Jail, and their cases will be scheduled for Sessions Court.
The “soft opening” of the Bonnaroo festival grounds in Manchester is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday with the official opening following at 6 p.m., according to Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves. The annual four-day entertainment and arts extravaganza, continues through Sunday night with a crowd of 80,000 expected from all over the country and resulting in heavy area traffic. One of the little-known financial benefits to the county and law enforcement agencies has historically been through the issuance of fines, mostly for minor offenses. Fines from last year brought in revenue totaling $621,127 as revealed recently by the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. Extensive coverage with stories and photos of Bonnarro will appear in The News’ future editions this week.
— 2013 Staff Photo
According to Duncan, the guidelines were worked out by the Circuit Court office, Manchester Police Chief Mark Yother, Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves, District Attorney Mickey Layne, Highway Patrol officials and the Drug Task Force.
While it might sound like nonresidents caught with drugs “get a better deal than local residents,” Duncan noted that those cited while attending Bonnaroo end up paying higher fines than local residents do.
Layne said he feels the fees collected are “taxpayer friendly” to Coffee Countians.
Despite part of the fines money going to his department, Sheriff Steve Graves says he doesn’t look forward to Bonnaroo, primarily because if violators are brought to the jail he has no place to put them.
“I’m going to have to put some in the hallways and on the floors,” he said. “Presently there are 300 inmates in a jail designed for 197 people, but we will deal with it and make sure that those arrested will be as safe as possible in the jail conditions.”
All county and city law enforcement personnel also will be working to make the many aspects of Bonnaroo as safe as possible, he said.