Waynesburg gets good deal on renovation project, thanks to SCI Greene

February 26, 2013
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Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter
Two inmates from the state Correctional Institution at Greene, who are members of the Community Works Program, paint council chambers at the Waynesburg Borough Building Tuesday. Looking on is CWP labor foreman Dave Thomas, an SCI employee who supervises the crew. Order a Print
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Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter
Inmates in the state Correctional Institution at Greene’s Community Works Program are renovating the Waynesburg police station, which has involved converting several small rooms into this large patrolmen’s room. Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – A project to renovate the Waynesburg Borough police station, estimated to cost more than $350,000, is being completed for significantly less, thanks to the state Correctional Institution at Greene’s Community Works Program.

A crew of four inmates and a CWP labor foreman have been busy on the project for months, tearing out old walls and dropped ceilings, constructing and finishing new rooms, restoring the original ceiling and replacing floors.

“We’re more than satisfied with the entire project,” police Chief Timothy Hawfield said.

Hawfield said the inmates have conducted themselves well. They have been courteous, have refrained from even the use of any “inappropriate words” and their work has been excellent. “There have been no complications at all with these men,” he said.

It’s been nearly 40 years since the borough has completed any work on the police station. Because of the costs, using the inmates “was the only way we could have done it,” Hawfield said.

When the borough originally considered renovating the station, the architect who prepared the design drawings estimated the cost at between $350,000 and $450,000, borough administrator Bruce Wermlinger said.

“The SCI crew probably did 90 percent of work. I estimate the savings to the borough at close to $300,000,” he said. The borough expects to spend slightly less than $50,000 on the project for materials and to pay a certified electrician to complete the wiring.

The work has been extensive, Wermlinger said, and the crews have done a good job.

Working around the inmates also hasn’t been a problem, said Athena Bowman, the borough’s administrative assistant. The crew is usually busy, and she’s busy, too, so there has been little interaction.

But they always say “good morning” and “excuse me” when they have to get passed her. “They’ve been very polite,” she said.

All of the inmates who work with the CWP have to complete an interview and achieve community and minimal supervision status, said CWP labor foreman Dave Thomas, an SCI employee who supervises the crew.

“You have to have a little more trust in these inmates than you do of inmates on the inside,” Thomas said. In the years he has been a foreman, Thomas said, he has never had a problem with the men.

Most of the inmates are nearing the end of their sentences.

“The majority are getting ready to go home, and they’re learning a trade to help them get back into society,” Thomas said. Many of the inmates enter the program with very few construction skills, “but they’re willing to learn and they pick it up fairly quickly,” he said.

The inmates also appear to like the work, Thomas said. “They would rather be out here working than inside the institution,” he said.

The crew that has been working at the borough began part of the project early last year, when members renovated Hawfield’s office and created the lieutenant’s office and an armory.

Since November, they have been busy converting three or four rooms in the front of the station into one large patrolmen’s room and a processing room.

SCI Greene has been operating the community works program since the prison’s opening. It now has three CWP crews. “All three are busy,” Thomas said.

Thomas said his crew does most of its work in Greene County. It is allowed to complete projects for nonprofit organizations and local governments.

The crew, which can include up to 10 inmates, has done work for Habitat for Humanity, Washington City Mission, the Nineveh Community Center, Waynesburg and Franklin Township, among others.

They have cleaned, painted, completed new construction, which involved framing and dry wall or siding work, and done roofing and electrical work. A crew also once helped the borough dig sewer lines and they regularly assist the state Department of Transportation clean up along state highways.

Borough employees certainly have appreciate their efforts. “I highly recommend them,” Hawfield said. “They provide a good service to the community.”

Organization or local governments that would like more information about the program or are interested in applying for it can contact Jeff Rogers at SCI Greene at 724-852-2902, extension 551.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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