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


Published August 3, 2011 at 6:02 p.m.

After 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.