County hurting for STS workers

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Through the years Swift County Environmental Services has used people serving time in the county’s Law Enforcement Center jail to help sort recyclables and other waste.

Working under the state’s Sentence to Service (STS) program, the inmates can work time off their jail time and earn money to pay off fines. In return, the county gets relatively cheap labor.

Offenders in the STS program can work off fines at the rate of $8 an hour for their labor and get one day off their sentence for every 16 hours worked. The fines get paid first, then the time gets reduced.

But now the recyclables are piling up and the facility is falling behind on other necessary work, Environmental Services Director Scott Collins told the county board of commissioners at their meeting April 18 due to a lack of STS workers. There hasn’t been a single STS worker at the facility so far this year, he said.

When garbage trucks come into the facility, the STS workers go through it with pitchforks, and by hand, separating non-processable waste from organic waste. They will sort newspapers, plastic, tin cans, and cardboard into separate piles and then bale it into large bales that are sold by the county.

“We’ve never been in a drought like this ever,” Collins said of the lack of STS workers. “We’ve normally had one to two people per week and we can count on that.”

Back in the first quarter of 2010, STS workers logged 507 hours at Environmental Services. At that rate, the annual hours would be over 2,028 hours or a fulltime employee. STS workers didn’t just work at Environmental Services, but also did odd jobs throughout the county.

“Those STS workers saved the county, saved us, money,” Collins said. “It was unbelievable. It is kind of alarming.” It is sad when he has read the court list to see if there is anyone who might be coming out to work at his facility, he said....


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