Expressing a need for an expert to review county prison operations, the Schuylkill County Prison Board Wednesday recommended the hiring of a consultant to the county commissioners.

Bob Shannon, a former superintendent of the state correctional institution located in Ryan Township near Frackville, was the candidate approved during the board's monthly meeting held at the courthouse in Pottsville. The board will ask the consultant to review the prison's operation and finances as it has been exceeding its budget and to make any suggestions to operate the prison more efficiently from both a financial and operational point of view.

The prison has also recently been experiencing problems with personnel. At the last board meeting three employees were suspended with pay while an investigation is being made. The investigation was turned over to the Pottsville police. Detectives from the district attorney's office will assist in the investigation.

Other action

In other action, the board is recommending the hiring of Barron George Line, Pottsville, as a correctional officer to fill a vacancy caused by a retirement.

Warden Eugene Berdanier gave his monthly report to the board on the budget and also a report on the physical condition of the plant.

The cost of operating the prison during the month of December was $358,017.41 with the overtime pay reaching $22,7097.05 for the month.

Problems with the furnace plaqued the prison for many days in December and extended to the first week of January. Representatives from the company which installed the boiler provided additional training to all prison maintenance staff and the courthouse maintenance director, Bill Liptok, on general operations and how to clean the boiler at end of heating season.

It was Liptok who discovered a major problem with the conveyer which appeared tilted. The company was called back to make the correction and the warden said everything is currently operational.

The inmate population continues to cause overcrowding. The population as of Wednesday was 198 males and 38 females.

The report of PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, which has a contract to provide medical care to the inmates, reported that in December, 10 inmates had in-house exrays, 17 were on medical sick call, 86 on nurse's sick call, 72 were seen by psychiatrists, 43 were examined by dentists with 33 receiving fillings and 16 were on suicide watch with no incidents.

Nineteen inmates filled the work release beds in the prison. These are inmates who daily go to their jobs but instead of going home at the end of the work day report to prison to serve their time.

Under the prison's Vocational Rehabilitation Program, 13 jobs were completed during December and services were provided to 75 senior citizens as referred by the Office of Senior Services, plus seven community service jobs and three jobs for the county.

Serving on the prison board are President Judge William E. Baldwin, who is chairman; Commissioners Mantura Gallagher, Francis McAndrew and Frank Staudenmeier, District Attorney James P. Goodman, Sheriff Joseph Groody and Controller Melinda Kantner.