Schuylkill County Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier still opposes the plan of his fellow commissioners and president judge and voted against applying for a $2.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a pre-release prison on land acquired adjoining the state correctional institution in Ryan Township, near Frackville.

But Commissioners Mantura Gallagher and Francis McAndrew voted to apply for the loan in action taken at the commissioners work session held Thursday at the courthouse in Pottsville.

President Judge Willliam E. Baldwin, who has been seeking additional space to house prisoners because the current bastile, built in the mid 1880s, has been overcrowded for a number of years and the county has been getting citations from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction to alleviate the overcrowding.

Staudenmeier claims options still remain which should be pursued. Baldwin disagrees claiming all options have been explored and if more space is not acquired then prisoners will have to be released early or sentences modified. Staudenmeier said he opposes such action.

McAndrew believes the new facillity would not only alleviate the overcrowding conditions but also reduce costs. He said the new facility would house mostly prisoners eligible for work release and the county would not have to place them under the current health care program. The county now has a contract with Prime Care Medical Inc., of Harrisburg, which provides nurses, doctors, dentists and psychologists.

According to Gallagher the contract covers 240 prisoners and more than that number pay extra.

One issue all four agree upon is that if the bids come in too high then the project dies.

Money saved

In 2008 the commissioners created the position of risk manager and there were grumblings among the employes because the budget was tight and everyone was asked to cut costs. The job has proven a savings of about $30,000 to date.

This was disclosed by David L. March, president of Higgins Insurance Company with whom the county renewed its premium for coverage of county property. The premium costs were reduced in 2005 from $516,717 to $469,807 for 2010 and the county increased their deductibles to $5,000 from $2,000, which was a savings of $18,593.

March explained because the county established the risk manager position, which many counties do not have, the PCorp Underwriters were able to apply additional rating credits due to the loss control efforts that were undertaken in 2008 and establishing the risk manager position. Claims have also been greatly reduced.

The commissioners were told the average number of claims per year since 1998 was 27 but since then was reduced to 11 claims totaling $63,889.

Criticize townships

McAndrew was critical of two townships which have refused to maintain traffic lights in their area forcing the county to pick up the bill of around $30,000 each year.

McAndrew raised the subject as county engineer Lisa Mahall discussed renewing a contract with Signal Services Inc., of West Chester, to perform repairs and general upgrades at six of the county-owned traffic signals. Five are located in North Manheim Township and one in East Brunswick Township.

Controller Melinda Kantner suggested the county turn over ownership of the lights to the state because they are on state roads which run through the townships.

Seek coal bids

Bill Liptok, director of the maintenance department, asked and was granted permission to seek bids to supply coal to the courthouse and prison for one to three years. He also told the commissioners to accept the bid of Guers Topsoil Company, New Philadelphia, for snow removal at the courthouse and prison areas.

The commissioners will act on his requests and others seeking contracts at next week's public meeting.