Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry addressed questions from the public this week regarding the launch of a feasibility study for a new county jail.
At Tuesday’s meeting for the commissioners, commissioner candidate Rick Wilbur questioned the cost of the study.
Kimball, the company conducting the study, has been offering its services at no cost to the county for now, Henry said.
Representatives of the company were to meet with Henry yesterday to discuss recommendations for models and other information related to the study.
“We haven’t made any decisions yet,” Henry said.
Henry also clarified an error made in last week’s Wyoming County Press Examiner and stated that it costs nearly $2 million to run the jail each year, not to board out inmates.
Kimball estimates that a new jail would cost somewhere between $38-42 million, Henry said.
At 3.5 percent, Wilbur said the $42 million estimate would come out to around $2.1 million per year.
“I can’t imagine how that’s feasible,” Wilbur said.
Henry responded that the percentage is less than 3.5, and that local banks have offered to “do it together as a project at a very low rate if they can,” according to Kimball.
With a newer facility capable of housing inmates from neighboring counties, operating with fewer guards and more, he noted that it could be worth the investment.
“With all that in mind, it may actually be less to have the new prison or pay about the same as we’re paying for the small prison that doesn’t work,” he said, though Kimball plans to establish just how a new prison could benefit the county through its study.
As Wyoming County loses money each year with its current jail, Henry said he has to at least see which options are out there.
“It would be the very last resort,” he said.
The commissioners also made a proclamation on Tuesday for National Adult and Family Literacy Week, which runs Sept. 22-28, with guests Aubrey Carrington and Vicki Vannon from the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program.
More than 36 million Americans can’t read or write at a basic level, while 60 million lack basic math skills, which makes it difficult to become effective workers, Henry said in the proclamation.
Each year, one in three young adults drop out of high school and American Action Forum estimates that by next year, the country will experience an estimated shortage of 7.5 million private sector workers across all skill levels, he said.
“Adult education programs such as the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program contribute to solving these challenges by helping Americans move along in their educational journey to achieve basic skills and be prepared for a career or higher education,” Henry said.
The commissioners acknowledged the program for offering its services at little to no cost and participating in the national Educate and Elevate Campaign, which allows citizens to learn about their adult education options.
In addition to its regular programs, Carrington told the commissioners that a pilot partnership has been formed with DHL Supply Chain to bring on-site English as a Second Language classes to its population of Nepalese workers.
Wyoming County 911 Director Jeff Porter was present at Tuesday’s meeting for the adoption of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems administrative policy for the county’s drone program.
For insurance purposes, the policy authorizes only those with licenses to operate county-owned drones.
Three county employees are licensed drone operators, and the county owns a single drone.
“We’re looking into a program where we would have two,” Henry said.
Wyoming County has used the drone for missing persons investigations, fires and other situations.
“There’s lots of need for it in the county,” Henry said. “Plus, other counties have asked for our help.”
The Wyoming County Prison Board also met on Tuesday morning.
Warden Ken Repsher said the jail is running under capacity with 64 inmates, including 49 males and 15 females.
Two inmates have been boarded out for safety reasons, not space issues, Repsher said.
As of July, the county has spent $52,225 boarding out inmates in surrounding counties.
The warden acknowledged the sheriff’s department, adult probation and the public defender’s office for helping get cases through the system efficiently.
In their meeting, the commissioners approved a promotion for Katherine Flores from part-time to full-time correctional officer, effective Sept. 15, at $14 per hour with benefits.
Maverick Harding and Ericka Wallace were also hired as part-time correctional officers at $14 per hour, effective Sept. 16 and Sept. 30, respectively.
The starting pay rate for correctional officers was raised from $12.50 to $14 a few weeks ago after comparing rates in other counties, Henry noted.
There’s also a shift differential, including 50 cents for second shift and 60 cents for third shift.
While the correctional facility still has some vacancies, he said it’s “in better shape than it was a month ago.”
The commissioners also accepted the resignation of Alysha Gregory from the sheriff’s office, effective Sept. 12.
With September being National Recovery Month, Henry reminded the public of the Wyoming County Recovery Celebration being hosted at the courthouse this Saturday, Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also, through Stop Overdose PA, the public can receive free Naloxone at the State Health Center in Tunkhannock on Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Henry also noted that a walk-through with ABM Industries, which the county contracted with to make its buildings more energy efficient, found that some meters were not set correctly, but everything has been working well otherwise.
The Wyoming County Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 9 a.m.