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August 03, 2011

Burlington Inks Deal with State Prison Officials to Hire Ex-Con Work Crews

250Lm-corrections-workersAfter nearly nine months of haggling, the city of Burlington and Vermont's Department of Corrections are set to sign off on a contract to re-hire ex-prisoners to help maintain the city's parks, cemeteries and buildings.

The city Board of Finance gave the Parks and Recreation Department the go-ahead Monday night to spend up to $60,000 on the contract — the same amount spent in previous years. As noted in Seven Days last month, the city was hard pressed to find enough cash to cover the same amount of work as it had in previous years.

Mari Steinbach, director of the city's Parks & Recreation Department, said taking the extra time to re-evaluate this long-standing contractual relationship with DOC was in the best interest of taxpayers, crew members and city and state officials.

"This refined contract enables more clearly-defined specific duties, calls for accountable average crew sizes, clearly states responsibilities by both parties, indicates levels and scope of supervision, improves the general liability insurance coverage, and sets a clear and accountable compensation structure to the benefits of both parties," said Steinbach.

Steinbach is now in the process of arranging the contract to be signed by all parties. Because its value is less than $100,000 it doesn't need approval by the city council.

"We expect to finalize work plans and have crews working within a couple weeks," said Steinbach.

Several work crews helped to clear the waterfront and other city properties of flood debris earlier this year, but after the city failed to pay $8000 to cover the cost of that work, the state pulled its offender work crews.

The contract also now aligns with the city's fiscal year, rather than the calendar year, ensuring that annual work plans and payment schedules are tied to the annual budget. Past contracts were written for the calendar year even though the work plans ultimately aligned to the fiscal year, Steinbach said.

The contract calls for three separate work crews: A five-member team to clean up the city's parks; a five-member crew to work in the three city-owned cemeteries and a three-member crew to work at various city-owned buildings. The crews work from at least 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, with Saturdays upon request.

Download the contract here.

And the Mayor said to the CAO with a heavy amount of clinking going on in the background signifying their swinging of nail driving hammers on the the chain gang,"See I told you we should of just informed the citizens honestly about BT and asked them for their support in getting the 16.9 million in legitimate ways. Clink but no JL you said we should just do it, Clink, but do not worry I will hire you as a consultant to insure a smooth transition for the mess you created. Clink.
Great job Bob. Clink

What's the address of Howard Mental Health?

What we have hear is failure to communicate.

Here, Gah I'm as bad as you.

Sounds like they need at most 4000 hours of work during the summer, but more likely half that. Hiring a full-time crew of 2 or 3 earning a livable wage could get the same work accomplished as a dozen unpaid prisoners and cost the same. I don't think it would be hard to find capable full-time landscape workers for $16.82. Working seasonal comes with the territory.

Seems wrong that prisoners work to subsidize the wages of city employees in the parks department.

FTEs making $20k-$30k per year would cost more than their salary (HR, management, employment taxes and benefits).

More obviously though, 2-3 FTEs can't accomplish the same amount of work as 12 work crew participants.

This program serves the public in three ways:

1) work that otherwise would not get done gets done.

2) people who are transitioning to post-prison lifestyles are eased into regular society.

3) people who are non-violent offenders are rehabilitated without crowding jails.

I'm glad to hear they have successfully negotiated this deal.

The overhead for a prisoner program is likely greater than free labor. Consider that the costs are hidden in the DOC's budget and the parks department is also responsible for supervision. Health care and retirement would be a big cost, but I don't think the city offers these benefits to temporary employees. I'm for prisoner rehabilitation, but "community service" sounds like part of their punishment to me. I'd prefer real jobs in Burlington over money going to the prison system.

Ward 2 resident: The contract linked in the post notes that DoC provides supervision for the crews.

Community service is an opportunity for non-violent offenders to make amends. This is an important aspect of corrections. I encourage you to investigate opportunities to serve with the Community Justice program and experience how this works. They are frequently looking for volunteers from various neighborhoods.

I too would like to see more paying jobs in Burlington. Idealky, jobs that aree compensated at a liveable wage--which includes health insurance or the cost of obtaining it separately from employment.

But I don't believe this agreement is putting anyone out of work, nor is it preventing the city from hiring more people. It is the Rec dept's job to see that we get the best possible Parks & Rec experience while spending taxpayer money wisely.

I believe this agreement accomplishes that goal.

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