The county prison received a great deal of attention from the Schuylkill County Commissioners at their work session held Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville.

A new five year contract with PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, who provides health care for inmates, was approved.

The first year of the new contract will cost taxpayers $626,104.58 for care of 240 inmates and for each additional prisoner the cost increases $4.83 per month.The remaining four years cost will be based upon the U.S. Department of Labor's cost-of-living index capped at three percent.

The only major change in the contract is returning the position of case manager from the health care provider to the county.The position was established by the county salary board which met following the commissioners meeting and the salary was set at $38,262 per year. The commissioners appointed Frank Menne, of Ashland, to the position.

Warden Eugene Berdanier explained the duties of the case manager.

The case manager will meet with all incoming defendants, help them with applications with public defender and for hearings before district justices, He will also discuss sentencing and compute the time they have to serve, costs and fines and help out on emergencies.

At the suggestion of the prison board the commissioners entered into a contract with Wacor Electronic Systems Inc., of East Petersburg, Lancaster County, for upgrading of the closed circuit television surveillance systems at the county prison at a cost of $287,641.25. Commissioner chairperson Mantura Gallagher said the cost for the system will not be paid by taxpayers but will come out of the fund collected by the county courts of $50 per month supervision fee a defendant pays while on probation or parole. Gallagher said the system is needed for security purposes.

Arrests made

Attorney Thomas J. Pellish was hired to a professional contract for services relating to personnel matters at $75 per hour. He will deal with the problem involving the most recent investigation of an alleged altercation between correctional officers and a prisoner.

The prison board suspended five correctional officers with pay following the ongoing investigation. In the next two weeks Pellish will hold a "laudermill" hearing, as required by law, to explain to the correctional officers the findings of the investigation and if any charges are brought against them.

(Editor's note: Yesterday Pottsville police charged three prison corrections officers for the alleged physical abuse of an inmate April 7. Charged were James Walter Preneta, 27, of Shenandoah, John David Yeager, 55, and Michael John Galavage, 37, both of Pottsville. The charges include assault and harassment against Preneta and harassment against the other two. The inmate allegedly assaulted was identified as Brandon Moyer, 23, of Pottsville).

Other business

Approval was given the Schuylkill Transportation Systems (STS) to consolidate capital grant agreement which previously was under the direction of ReDCo which operated the bus system.

In January the system was turned over to a nine member Schuylkill Transportation System Authority which was appointed by the commissioners last year. The federal and state funds received were approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The bus line received $1,066,851 from the federal government and will use the funds to replace two transit buses and help operate the system. A second federal grant of $254,000 will be used to purchase two accessible and one accessible replacement passsenger vans and $18,000 of state funds under Act 3 will be used to replace fuel monitoring system and upgrade the telephone system. The county's local match for this year is $37,637.

Approved were two agreements between Shippensburg University and the Schuylkill County Juvenile Justice Department in amounts of $222,534 and $438,830.71.

A contract was awarded to Arthur "Pat" Aungst, Pine Grove, in amount of $32,015.70 for a stormwater project on Oak Street in Girardville and a contract for $49,600 to L&K Construction Services, Pottsville, to make accessible improvements to the municipal building in Gordon.

Permission was granted to Gary Bender, who heads the county's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, to advertise for bids for the Schaeffer Hill stormwater project in Cass Township. Bids to be received in the controller's office by June 13.

Gallagher announced the courthouse will be closed Friday, April 22, in accordance with the courthouse schedule and that the public meeting of Wednesday, April 27, will be held at the North Schuylkill High School in Ashland and not at the courthouse.