Grant benefits community service program

Published 9:48 am Friday, February 13, 2015

When Ironton Municipal Judge O. Clark Collins Jr. started the community service work program, he didn’t have a model or guidelines to follow.

Everyone was, as Collins describes, “flying by the seat of their pants.”

“We pioneered it in the state of Ohio,” Collins said. “We started it back when there were no rules or regulations about it.”

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But that was 30 years ago.

“Other judges sent their people in to see how we had it set up, now it’s pretty much all over the state,” he said.

Today, the program operates like a well-oiled machine, and, thanks to a grant donation from the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District, the program has quite a few new machines of its own to help keep the community clean.

Dan Palmer, director of the LSSWMD, said he applied for a grant through the Ohio EPA and was awarded $20,000. Collins matched another $10,000 on top.

That money went towards the purchase of an 8 by 20-foot Cargo Mate trailer, fully equipped with new landscaping equipment and tools for the community service program. Those new items included a new riding lawn mower and push mowers, a vacuum, chainsaws, weed eaters, shovels, axes, a generator and air compressor and a workbench with various tools.

Palmer said giving the grant to Collins’ program was a way to show appreciation to the court for its assistance in cleaning up the community while the LSSWMD was going through court litigation.

“I can’t say enough about the program,” Palmer said. “… They have helped us whenever we needed it.”

Through the partnership, the work program provided its vehicles and workers to help with various cleanups around the county, including a large alley cleanup in the city of Ironton in the fall of 2013.

“The community would just suffer without this program, significantly,” Palmer said.

Collins said the grant would benefit the work program tremendously, as well as the community.

“We cut the exits and the cemeteries; all kinds of projects,” Collins said. “And boat ramps. All this equipment will be used. It’s just wonderful. Dan has been great to work with. The community benefits from that kind of cooperation.”

Collins and the program’s director, J.D. McDaniel, agreed the program is also beneficial to those who are in it.

“Some of the workers actually develop structure out here because growing up they didn’t have the raising as I did as a child,” McDaniel said. “They actually look up to you and call you after their time is done.”

Having workers in the program also cuts incarcerations costs.

“They don’t have to spend that time in jail,” Collins said. “And we work some of them out of the jail. If they do a good job, they benefit because I consider them for early release. They literally work their way out of jail.”