JOHNSON CO., Ind --- A unique partnership between the Johnson County Prosecutor's Office and the Johnson County Animal Shelter is saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year in labor costs.
The partnership was the brain child of Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper and Michael Delp with Johnson County Animal Control. Together in 2012, they came up with a solution to save the county on labor projects by putting people with minor offenses to work as a part of their sentence or deferral.
"If you put an hour value of minimum wage and hours that they've been out here, it's close to $100,000 of taxpayer savings. I think it's a win-win situation," said Prosecutor Brad Cooper.
Here's how it works: when someone is convicted of a minor offense, they are required to complete community service, typically at the shelter. In 2017 alone, the county saved nearly $30,000 in labor costs and received more than 3,000 hours of community service for the year.
"I like it. I think it's a good thing and this place is well-organized and they've got a lot of structure," said Steve Winters, community service worker.
It's not basic tasks like mopping or pulling weeds either, some individuals have specific sets of skills the shelter uses to help maintain the facility. For example, one individual needing community service who owns a tree trimming business helped trim trees at the facility. Another individual was a painter by trade and he worked to paint the shelter.
The shelter has nearly a dozen people working off their court-mandated service hours at the same time. They work around their schedules, allowing them to do a few hours at a time. Their hours are tracked and recorded and their work is monitored on the security cameras.
"Hopefully it gives them a better sense of self-esteem and a better view of themselves, and hopefully they can go out and be productive members of the community," said Michael Delp, Johnson Co. Animal Care and Control Director.
The shelter also sees people with minor offenses in surrounding counties, such as Marion, helping at their facility.
Here's a breakdown of the savings for taxpayers provided to RTV6 by the Johnson County Animal Shelter. These are the estimated totals since the program's creation: