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Arroyo Grande approves inmate work crews

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The city of Arroyo Grande enlisted some unlikely help tackling small maintenance projects around the city for the next several years.  

Members of the City Council approved a five-year contract with the California Men’s Colony and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to utilize inmate work crews for unskilled labor within the city.

The contract, which was approved without discussion as part of council’s consent agenda at its Oct. 13 meeting, states that the inmate work crews are available only for jobs requiring unskilled labor, and can’t be used on projects that require public bidding. Information presented to the council at the meeting indicated that the city has used such crews from CMC for “several years.” Work done by the inmate crew includes graffiti removal, littler removal, weed abatement, and streambed maintenance.

By contracting CMC inmate crews for such tasks, the city says it frees up staff to focus on higher priority maintenance projects and programs.

“These crews help with tasks that are important but not urgent and would otherwise be designated as low priority due to staffing issues or lack of funds,” a memorandum from city staff to the council read.

That help comes cheap. According to the contract, inmate workers on the crews make between $2.25 and $3 per day. That amount hasn’t changed since the last contract between CMC and the city, which was approved in 2012. One amount that has changed is the cost of the correctional officers tasked with overseeing the work crews. Under the latest contract, the city must reimburse CMV $500 per full day, or $250 for days when the crews work three hours or less. In the previous contract, the cost was $440 per full day, and $220 for partial days.

In total, the cost of utilizing the crews will run about $38,000 for the next two fiscal years of the five-year contract. Last year, the program cost about $30,000. According to the Transparent California website, total annual compensation for city maintenance workers ranged from less than $20,000 to more than $86,700 in 2013.

While the inmates on the work crews won’t be getting paid any more, the number of days they are allowed to work decreased under the new contract from five to four. The maximum hours the crews are allowed to work each day is nine.

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