Jamestown committee approves prison volunteer worker program

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May 26—The Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee approved an agreement allowing volunteer inmates from the James River Correctional Center to work on city projects at its Tuesday meeting.

The Volunteer Reintegration Agreement allows inmates who are not sex offenders and listed as minimum security in the prison system to volunteer for work projects for the city of Jamestown. The agreement includes a waiver the inmate must sign regarding the liability of the city if they should become injured.

"There are positives here," said Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich during the committee meeting. "It gives them an opportunity to get out and work in the community."

Jamestown City Forester Eric Laber had negotiated the agreement and his department could use prison volunteers in the future in some programs, Heinrich said.

"These are minimum risk inmates," said Dan Buchanan, city councilman. "Reintegration is extremely important to get these people back in the community. It is a win-win situation."

The purpose listed in the agreement by the James River Correctional Center is to instill a work ethic, basic skills, self-discipline, a sense of community, volunteerism and pride in work accomplished in the volunteer inmates.

The agreement also stipulates the supervision of the inmates while working as volunteers for the city of Jamestown will remain the responsibility of the prison.

The city must provide five days notice of any projects requiring volunteers to the prison which will then provide volunteers who are at low risk of negatively impacting the safety of city officials, employees, agents, contractors and the general public.

The agreement does not include a cost to the city for the volunteer workers or their supervision.

In other business, the Finance and Legal Committee approved providing $30,000 in economic development funds to the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. for the continuation of the Flex Pace Interest Buydown program.

The Flex Pace program is a local loan combined with a grant from the Bank of North Dakota to reduce the interest rate for business loans in the area. The JSDC was funded with $250,000 at the beginning of the year but that has been expended.

The JSDC Board of Directors is studying whether to modify the program in the future to possibly reduce costs.

The actions of the Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee now move the consent agenda of the Jamestown City Council for final action during the June 7 meeting.

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