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The green van with “Work Crew” on the side of it has been a common sight in Whitley County for the last decade, but now it’s time for a change.
With help from the Whitley County Probation Department, Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office and Columbia City, a new van will be in the hands of the work crew supervisors.
With budgets getting ever tighter, the work crew has increasingly become a benefit to governments.
Last year, the work crew painted all the curbs in Columbia City, a project that usually costs the city about $9,000 to pay part-time help for the summer.
With the work crew, the city’s street department only needed to provide the supplies.
Street department superintendent Kelly Cearbaugh said he approached Thor Hodges, a supervisor of the work crew, to see if community service participants could take a burden from the city and paint the curbs as a way to save money.
The work crew has volunteered about 4,300 hours in Columbia City since January 2008.
“There’s a direct correlation between those numbers and budget cuts,” Hodges said.
With that much time devoted to the city, the council was eager to offer $10,000 toward the new van.
Another $10,000 will come from probation user fees and the rest of the cost will be paid by the prosecutor’s office.
The state bid for the van is about $25,000. Without a state bid, Hodges said a new van would likely not be an option.
The new van will be bare bones, with air conditioning as the only extra option. All equipment from the current van will be transferred to the new one.
The green van currently in use is the last vehicle provided from the Indiana Department of Corrections because it stopped funding community service.
The DOC will only fund programs that have evidence that proves the program helps keep people out of system. Despite that lack of hard evidence, community service continues to support many cities and towns in the state.
“It is a benefit to the community, as well as the offender,” said Paula Worden, grant writer for the county’s community corrections program.
Aside from work for non-profits and governments, the adult and juvenile work crews that run almost every day do work for people need help with snow or leaf removal.
“We don’t control where we go. People who need the help control where we go,” Hodges said.