City Council members are cautiously considering using inmate work crews from Zephyrhills Correctional Institution to tackle odd jobs.
City Manager Steve Spina's proposal to take a look at the nearby state prison's outside work squad program was met Monday with a mix of polite skepticism and curiosity. Spina said the city could get up to six inmates working a 40-hour week for about $59,000 a year, which includes the cost of a prison guard supervising the work detail. The inmates could do a variety of jobs — mowing, cleaning up alleys, improving sidewalks or painting fire hydrants, Spina said. Apopka participates in the program, he added.
"The benefit to the city is six extra bodies doing labor," said Spina. "One possible negative is community reaction."
Council members expressed concern about liability, insurance costs and the types of inmates working on the crews. Spina assured them that the inmates would likely be trustees and that "no triple murderers" would be manning lawn mowers on city properties. Council member Alan Knight said he would want a stipulation that the inmates would not work near schools. Spina said he would do further research on the program.
In other business, the council:
• Turned down a request from David Krasizgrun to change the land use designation of about 30 acres he owns at the northern end of the city. Krasizgrun's plans to build up to 402 apartments on the property around Phelps Road on the west side of U.S. 301 drew protests from neighbors who want the area to remain rural. The city's planning commission previously denied the request.
• Agreed to request time on the next Pasco County Commission meeting agenda to urge commissioners to continue using the same funding formula the county has used for 25 years to distribute gas tax revenue to municipalities. The county agreed last year to wait one year before implementing a new formula that would mean significant losses to Pasco's six cities. Zephyrhills stands to lose more than $300,000 if the formula changes.