State, county and city government entities in Cherokee County will be losing a valuable resource, it was announced at the Tuesday meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors.
For a number of years, minimum security inmates from Rockwell City have been working at the Cherokee Mental Health Institute at a variety of tasks. In order to maximize transportation efficiency by bringing an entire busload from Rockwell City to Cherokee four times a week, other public entities were invited to use inmate labor for a token fee, to help cover transportation and lunch.
The city of Cherokee was an early and enthusiastic user of this labor source. Subsequently, Cherokee County, the city of Marcus and the Cherokee School District came to use the inmate labor.
Only one attempted escape occurred from this program in Cherokee County. No other serious problems have been reported.
Recently, the CMHI received 30 days notice that the Department of Corrections will end busing inmate workers to Cherokee County.
"I think we're going to have grass growing awfully tall," Dennis Henrich, mayor of Cherokee, told the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
"We were looking at using them even more in the year coming up," Ron Wetherell, chairman of the supervisors, stated.
It was decided that Rick Forkenbrock, director of support services at MHI, will be consulted about sending a letter to the Department of Corrections about reinstating the program.
When contacted later, Forkenbrock said that the MHI is not giving up on the inmate program. There will be communications on the matter. There will also continue to be efforts to have minimum security inmates housed on the MHI campus.