Proposed Project Puts Inmates to Work in Downtown Westminster
Westminster Council members voted unanimously this week to move ahead on a project where inmates preparing for release would work with construction crews to improve curbs in the downtown area.
The first step, which the council approved, is submittting an application for a Community Development Block Grant for more than $318,000.
City Administrator Marge Wolf explained that the city must complete reconstruction and construction of curb ramps in the downtown area to meet handicap accessibility requirements.
Mayor Kevin Utz added that the projects are necessary to make the city compliant.
According to Wolf, the project would be done as part of a program to prepare convicts for employment. Wolf said that inmates preparing for release would work one-on-one with construction crews to complete the curb modification projects.
A similar project was recently done in Cambridge, and Wolf said there were no problems.
She said that the contractor selected to manage the project has been "tried and trained" in working with soon-to-be released convicts.
Westminster resident Shawn Lawlor said that he doesn't like the idea of bringing convicts into the downtown area.
"We're saving money, but scattering convicts along Main Street," Lawlor said.
Utz said that the city would not initiate a program if it were unsafe for citizens.
"If you take notice, you have these people who are preparing to leave prison working on roads with the State Highway [Administration] every day," Utz said. "They are well supervised, they make our state beautiful, in fact."
"I can assure you that the city of Westminster would not have a project move forward if we weren't sure that the citizens were safe," Utz said.
Wolf said that the cost to have the work done through this program is about half of what it would cost otherwise.
Councilman Tony Chiavacci said, "this is a wonderful solution, it seems to me like we're getting a lot for our money."