NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - Several Pasco County inmates went to work Monday to try to help communities prepare for summer rains and potential flooding.
Following the 2015 floods, which were the worst in decades for Pasco, county commissioners agreed to devote funds to a program through the Pasco County Jail that puts inmates to work clearing drainage ditches.
"Drainage doesn't work well when it gets this plugged up and, as I said, there's a lot of it in the county and it's going to take a long time to get it all fixed," said Mike Barrett, Pasco's public works director. "By having these crews out here, we're able to clean some things that we don't have staff to do."
County leaders said this is a low-cost option that will help address some of the minor issues that can cause major problems for neighborhoods.
Pasco has spent about $9-million since 2008 fixing issues like this. Using a four-person crew of convicts can cost about $65,000 a year, which is about half the price of a contracted crew.
The county is hopeful the program is as beneficial for flood-prone neighborhoods as it is for the inmates.
"It feels amazing to come outside of the jail to work," said Richard Adkins, an inmate working in the program. "Working all day doing 10 hours...it makes me want to come out into the world and do better than I was doing."
County leaders hope to expand the program to more than one four-person crew.