Montgomery County community service program reports good 2009

More then 75 fire hydrants got a new coat of paint, 50 discarded tires were removed from Montgomery

More then 75 fire hydrants got a new coat of paint, 50 discarded tires were removed from Montgomery County roadsides and the parking lot and walkways at the St. Johnsville Marina got a new sealcoating in 2009.

Graffiti in Amsterdam and Canajoharie was covered up and several neglected cemeteries got some attention last year.

And the labor for these and more than 10 other projects was free.

Montgomery County supervisors this week heard an update on projects coordinated by the county’s Community Service program, which sent dozens of people to work at 81 different sites instead of jail to pay their debt to society.

Roughly 11,200 hours of work were performed by people who were convicted of crimes yet got the chance to work in the community instead of sitting in jail, county Youth Bureau Director Jennifer Petteys said.

Petteys provided an annual report on several programs run through the office including the Community Service, Pretrial Release and STOP-DWI programs in an effort to raise awareness among county supervisors who will be looking at ways to trim spending once next year’s budget is under development.

Other departments will be giving presentations in upcoming weeks and many will emphasize the critical nature of their departments, especially those that are not mandated, Petteys said.

“Countywide, every department should be somewhat concerned about being able to validate the services that are there,” Petteys said.

During 2009, judges assigned 11,230 hours of community service and a total of 8,556 hours were completed — Petteys said absenteeism is a common problem in the program, which primarily serves defendants aged 16 to 18.

For programs in the department, the value is calculated by adding up the estimated daily cost of housing an inmate at the county jail and, for the pretrial release program, in state prison.

In 2009, community service displaced 6,700 days of jail time. At an estimated cost of $85 per day, that adds up to $569,500 in savings.

And if somebody had to pay workers $7.15 per hour to paint fire hydrants, sweep roads and help move the Walter Elwood Museum’s collection, that work would have cost $61,175.40.

Coordinated by Community Services Director Richard Boice, the program costs the county just over $30,000 for Boice’s salary.

Petteys said some could argue that the jail is staffed anyway, so money is spent on empty jail cells. But inmates have to be clothed and fed, and ultimately, work in the community may better serve the teenagers than sitting in a cell, she said.

“A lot of times, unfortunately, if you put them in a cell, it’s a vacation away from home and school. They really haven’t learned anything when they come out,” Petteys said.

The Community Services program saw 146 new defendants in 2009 and 130 in 2008, Petteys said, adding that the number stays fairly steady in that range.

Other work completed through community service in 2009 includes:

u Painting the pavilion at the Fort Plain Fireman’s Park and an outbuilding at the Charleston Reformed Church.

u Assisting Catholic Charities each month by transporting 3 to 4 tons of food for its food pantry.

u Maintaining the historic castle site and cemetery at the Tekakwitha Shrine.

u Set-up and take-down of tables and chairs at the Amsterdam Elks Club, the Walter Elwood Museum ice cream social, Dollars for Scholars and SPCA comedy night events.

u Shoveling snow and salting sidewalks for several nonprofits throughout the county.

Categories: Schenectady County

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