Carroll official suggests inmates for roadwork Budget chief says move could save county $75,000

March 31, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll could do more road maintenance and save $75,000 if county prisoners were used as flaggers on road construction projects, the county budget director said yesterday.

But County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown is cool to the idea.

"This issue scares me," said Brown. "The more I drive, the more I realize that flaggers have my life in their hands. I'm not at all comfortable with guys from the jail having the right attitude or attention span" to control traffic at construction sites.

Budget Director Steven D. Powell said Carroll would not be the first jurisdiction in the state to use prisoners as flaggers. Prisoners would receive training and become "certified" before going out on road projects, he said.

Brown was not convinced.

"Some of the people [in the Detention Center] are in that situation because they had an [anti-public] attitude in the first place," he said.

Powell offered the proposal during a budget hearing yesterday as an alternative to a budget request from J. Michael Evans, the county public works director.

Evans had asked the commissioners for an additional $75,000 in a $10 million spending request to hire summer employees as flaggers.

Having well-trained people is essential, he said. "I think of flaggers more as saving our people's lives than yours," Evans told Brown and Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates.

Two members of each of the county's six- to eight-person road crews act as flaggers. Hiring seasonal flaggers would free those crew members for construction and would allow the county to repair more miles of road, Evans said.

Powell is negotiating with Warden Mason Waters about making prisoners available.

Attire might be an issue.

Sheriff John Brown requires Detention Center prisoners to wear prison stripes -- black-and-white outfits with large red P's on the back. "I have asked if they can wear orange jump suits rather than the black and white," Powell said.

He told the commissioners he would bring the proposal to them after he and Waters had worked it out.

Evans was one of four department heads to meet with the commissioners to seek at least the same level of funding in the fiscal year beginning July 1 as they are getting now.

If the commissioners turn down the proposal to use county inmates, Powell will recommend against putting money for flaggers in the fiscal 1999 budget, he said.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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