With cheap labor over, Kinston makes new hires

With cheap labor over, Kinston makes new hires (Reporter: Jon Erickson)

KINSTON, LENOIR COUNTY - The end of a prison labor program in Kinston will cost the city at least $100,000, according to the city manager.

"Coming up with those additional funds is going to be difficult,"City Manager Tony Sears said.

For over a decade, inmates have been bussed into the city to mow grass, empty trash, and perform other manual labor jobs, officials said.

But those inmates are no longer available; their prison, Duplin Correctional Center, closed last week.

The closure was part of Governor Pat McCrory's new state budget.

There is no other facility nearby with suitable inmates, so Kinston has hired new workers to perform the necessary labor around the city, Sears said.

The contract for an average of 12 inmates who worked every weekday cost the city approximately $18,000 per year, City Manager Tony Sears said.

That works out to about $1 per day for each inmate.

"It's wasn't free labor, but it was about as close as you get," said Duncan Charlton, parks superintendent for Kinston-Lenoir Parks and Recreation.

The city will likely fill the labor void with a combination of new hires and contracted labor, Sears said.

Four part-time workers have already been hired as laborers; the cost will be drawn from the city's savings account, Sears said.

The nearest facility with appropriate inmates is in Newport.

A one-way trip between the two cities is approximately 60 miles.

It is too early in the budget year to speculate if a tax increase would be necessary to pay for the increased costs, Sears said.

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