Trusted inmates tidy county parks

INMATE WORK DETAILS START — Oneida County Correctional Facility inmates work under the guidance of Corrections Sgt. Deborah Harris. The inmates are part of the trustee program which enables them to leave the facility and do details. They were working at Wankel Park in South Utica. Wankel Park is behind Chanatry’s Plaza. In the backgrond are Sheriff Robert Maciol, County Legislator Daniel Trevisani and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

A city park in South Utica is getting an updated look thanks to a work release program involving county inmates.

A plan announced today will jump start the beautification of Wankel Park by using greenery to create an entrance to the park and its youth baseball fields — with prisoners doing the work at no cost. The park’s infrastructure has been deteriorating in recent years because of budget constraints, according to County Legislator Daniel J. Trevisani, D-19, Utica.

"My constituents are very concerned about the rising taxes but no increase in services and many wonder what they get for their county tax dollars, " said Trevisani. "With the support of the sheriff, this is a perfect opportunity where the city and the county can work together making a tremendous difference that will cost the taxpayers nothing for labor."

The park is located behind Chanatry’s Hometown Market on French Road.

"This program’s purpose goes even deeper than fixing up a park," says Sheriff Robert M. Maciol. "The educational programs at the Oneida County jail, such as this one that focuses on teaching horticulture, provide an opportunity for an inmate to learn a valuable trade that they can use to find a job when they complete their jail sentence."

He added, "At the same time an inmate is making a positive impact in the community along with building a future career path, our community benefits by getting much needed work done at no cost for the labor. This is just another way the Sheriff’s Office is working together with the municipalities within the county to do more with less."

Project organizers include Trevisani, Maciol and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri.

"Wankel Park has been a South Utica treasure for generations," the mayor said. "It’s time that it had an entrance way worthy of its tradition. Through the inmate education work program we help rebuild lives and greatly improve one of Utica’s most important recreational areas."