Inmate workers helping with construction
By Michael Hartwell, email@example.com
05/01/2014 06:53:17 AM
Tommie-Lee Goddard sands a doorway in the new Westminster Senior Center
Wednesday morning as part of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Community Service Program.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREEN
WESTMINSTER — Contractors and inmate workers were working hard on the inside of the Westminster Senior Center, which town officials expect to be open by Christmas.
The inmate workers, who are sanding and painting the interior this week, were brought in courtesy of a Worcester County Sheriff’s Office program for low-risk inmates nearing release.
Inmates are unpaid, but receive credit towards an earlier release. Corrections Officer Jason Firmin, who was one of two officers supervising the work Wednesday, said it also allows them to give back to the community.
“It’s a good way to pass the time,” said Felix Mendoza, an inmate worker originally from Clinton and no stranger to construction work.
Town officials say the new Westminster Senior Center is on track to open by Christmas.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREEN
He has experience with masonry and electrical work, but the inmate crew is only there to paint.
Tommie Goddard of Leicester said the work gives them something to do and breaks up their routine. The inmate workers received coffee and doughnuts in the morning and sandwiches for lunch.
Inmate worker Brandon Griffin of Fitchburg has never done painting work before. Previously this week, he put down primer and paint and on Wednesday he was using sandpaper on doorways to smoothe out the brushstrokes. He said when he gets out he plans to work and continue his education. He currently has an associate’s degree in business and plans to get a bachelor’s degree in business.
Construction contractors from L.D. Russo Inc., of Harvard, are working on more advanced tasks like installing components of the temperature-control system. In addition, unpaid volunteers from town are also helping work on the project, including Keith Harding, a former advisory board member, and Don Barry of the Planning Board.
Aubuchon Hardware, which has its headquarters in Westminster, donated paint for the project. A Westminster resident donated the use of a scissor lift to reach the high points of the ceiling in the large activity room at the center of the senior center.
“With the tight budget we have, everyone’s help is appreciated,” said Peter Normandin of the Senior Center Building Committee.
Wearing old clothes for painting work, Normandin said next week students from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School will come in to put in ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms and install stone details on the bottom of the outside walls and columns.
The contractor should be finished with the construction work before July, according to Normandin. He said they hope to have the 7,400 square foot building finished and open before Christmas of this year.
Neysa Miller of Westminster’s Council on Aging has been one of the volunteers working on the building project since 2005. At age 87, she said it’s a success that the single-floor building will offer program space for people her age, as well as the younger seniors. She praised the volunteer work that has been crucial to keeping the budget low for the project.
“It brings the whole town together,” said Miller.
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis represented Westminster for eight years as a state representative, “And I know how hard they worked to get the senior center in their budget. The amazing thing about this program is it saves millions of dollars … and at the same time it gives the inmates a skillset they can rely on when they get out.”
He said participation in the inmate-work program is a privilege reserved for nonviolent offenders without behavioral issues, and participants have one of the lowest recidivism rates among inmates.