LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have agreed to a trial program in which inmates at the Belknap County Jail who work at county facilities will be paid $3 a day.
Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray told commissioners that he currently has 12 inmates available to work and estimated that it would cost $15,427 a year to pay inmates for their work.
The inmates would work in the Belknap County Home kitchen washing dishes, at the county home and corrections department laundries, or as part of the grounds crew and farm crew at the county home. There would also be some off-site work at locations like the Belknap County Fairgrounds or in communities which ask for prison labor for specific projects.
Gray said that those eligible to work will be minimum risk, nonviolent offenders and that waivers might be sought in order to allow those awaiting trial to participate.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he thinks getting more inmates working is a good idea.
“There are too many people sitting around watching television,” he said.
He also wondered if it is possible for a judge to include a work requirement when an offender is sentenced.
Gray said that he would assign eligible inmates to work details and that their participation would be mandatory.
The action came in response to concerns raised at the Dec. 2 meeting of the commission at which Carolee Sliker, dietary manager at the nursing home, said that she was concerned inmate labor and a possible shortage when the new community corrections center opens.
DeVoy had suggested $5 a day for inmates who work, and after some discussion a compromise figure of $3 day was agreed to.
County Administrator Debra Shackett wondered what budget line should be used to cover the payments and commissioners asked her to get back to them with a recommendation.
• The commission also voted to approve the purchase of a 12-person, two-wheelchair bus to be used for transporting residents of the nursing home to various functions and activities. The bus will be purchased from Patsy’s Bus Sales of Concord with a total cost of $62,137 less a $3,500 trade-in for a bus currently used by the Corrections Department.
DeVoy asked Gray why the department is giving up the bus and was told that the bus has only been used once by the department in the last six months and that he only has one employee with a commercial driver’s license. He said he could work out an arrangement with the county home to use the bus if his department needs it.
• Commissioners also approved request for five line-item budget transfers which must now be brought to the Belknap County Convention’s Executive Committee for approval. The largest request was for $61,465 to cover Medicare Part B expenses at the Belknap County Nursing Home, which have changed due to shifting medical costs based on a resident census.
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