AUGUST 29, 1996

FLETCHER - When thousands of people visit the Mountain State Fair next week, they will see the benefits of the Governor's Community Work Program at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center.

Inmates from Buncombe and Henderson correctional centers will be working through September 3rd to prepare for the Sept 4-8 fair. Henderson inmates have painted the roofs of the exhibition hall and livestock barn and the interior of the arena. They've mowed grass and cut brush around the center. They've also spread mulch and gravel for walkways and parking areas.

"They're certainly helping us out and I really appreciate it," said Bill Edmondson, the fair's manager. "The fair operates on the revenue it generates and inmate labor has been a way for us to stretch our dollars in making improvements at the fairgrounds."

In the last eight days, inmates from Henderson have worked 1,100 hours at the agricultural center. Edmondson said he would have had to pay laborers $6 an hour to do that work.

Through the Governor's Community Work Program inmate labor is free. Correctional officers supervise crews of up to 14 inmates in short term, manual labor projects for state agencies and communities.

"Everyone wins with this program," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "Communities receive free labor and inmates learn a work ethic and are required to give something back to the community."

After the fair, Buncombe inmates are scheduled to help clean up the agricultural center.