Davenport Officials Looking into Ideas of Inmates Working in the City by Cody Dulaney

Posted: May 20, 2014 in News and politics

DAVENPORT | It may take some renegotiating and haggling, but city commissioners are on board with the idea of inmates working throughout the city.

“As far as manpower goes — that’s great,” Commissioner Bobby Lynch said. “I think it’s a good idea if we could find the money.”

After nearly 20 minutes of discussion Monday night, commissioners directed staff to come back with a more defined list of costs associated with the Inmate Work Squad Detail Program.

The city is considering entering into a contract with Florida Department of Corrections for the program that would allow a crew of five inmates from Polk Correctional Institution to work in the middle of the day throughout the city.

“This would almost double our manpower with Public Works,” City Manager Amy Arrington said.

Inmates are pre-screened and determined to be eligible for the program, she said, and a supervisor would manage the crew.

While beneficial for the city, officials are trying to cut costs anywhere they can.

The initial contract would cost the city nearly $64,700, with about $54,000 of that to pay the salary of a guard to supervise the crew of inmates.

For the first year, however, the city would pay close to $90,000, Arrington said, as some costs include training and other nonrecurring fees.

Savings will come from the miscellaneous items for the program including communication devices, tools and transportation, said Hank Harrison, the city’s public works director.

Radios and other communication devices would cost the city between $4,000 and $5,000, Arrington said, but there could be an alternative.

Providing cellphones for the program could result in a cost savings.

However, the amount of savings and whether cellphones can be used as an alternative are still questions officials are looking to answer.

An extra $3,000 to $4,000 in lawn equipment and tools would need to be covered by the city, as inmates will primarily focus on maintenance of city property and roadways.

Costs also include gloves and safety vests for each inmate, as well as the proper signage to notify passersby of the working inmate crew, Harrison said.

Transportation is another cost the city will have to cover.

City officials will look at acquiring a van to transport five inmates and a supervisor, and the van will remain at the Polk Correctional Institute for traveling to and from the city.

The city can either purchase a new van or use one from the existing fleet, but it’s still too early to know, Harrison said.

With an annual contract, the program would last 50 weeks, leaving two weeks for the supervisor’s vacation time, Harrison said.

Officials also will look to save money through a part-time program; however, it is still unclear whether that is available or can even be negotiated, Arrington said.

An option to partner with neighboring cities also is being considered.

Similar inmate work programs are active in Haines City, Lake Hamilton and Winter Haven.

Officials hope to have a better understanding of the costs associated with the program, and the remaining questions answered by the May 28 meeting.

“Maybe this will drive down the resident complaints about (overgrowth and trash),” Commissioner Tom Fellows said.

Cody Dulaney can be reached at cody.dulaney@newschief.com or 863-401-6969. Follow him on Twitter @dulaneycd.

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