Continuing problems with the heating boiler in the Schuylkill County prison took up much of the discussion of the county Prison Board at a meeting held at the prison Wednesday.

Warden Eugene Berdanier gave a chronology of the problems.

During a check of the boiler on Feb. 10 it was discovered the ash conveyor was not working and water was detected leaking inside the boiler. Heating of the prison was switched from coal to gas. After repairs were made, the coal fire was restarted. On March 3, a check of the boiler revealed the coal fire was having spikes. Raking failed to remove them, and it determined the problem was with the grate. Again, heating was switched to gas while repairs made and coal fire was back in service on March 11. On March 19, it was discovered the fire was burning poorly, with fire out in the middle and burning only on the sides. Again, the switch to gas was made. Inspection of the boiler disclosed that air openings were blocked and had to be redrilled. After repairs were made, the coal fire was restarted on March 21.

Berdanier also reported the intercom system was improved and a new fuse box was installed to operate the kitchen exhaust fans. Loose mortar was discovered falling from the roof, but inspections are curtailed because snow is still on the roof. A new washer and dryer were installed in the work release section of the prison, and a sewer blockage in C Block was opened.

The monthly operational costs of the prison was $313,303,57. The current prison population is 215 males and 45 females, for a total population of 258.

Negotiations have begun for a new contract with Prime Care Medical Inc., Harrisburg, which provides all medical needs to inmates. The current contract expires April 30.

Prime Care Medical has proposed several plan options for the county to consider. Berdanier also reported testing formulas for new correctional officers were being evaluated and will be presented for consideration by the prison board. The medical staff reported during the month 15 inmates were under suicide watch, with no incidents to report.

Probation Officer Joseph F. Huth, work release coordinator, reported 21 inmates have employment. Fourteen inmates participated in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which completed 20 jobs. Four days were spent providing service to 75 senior citizens as referred by the Office of Senior Service, in addition to eight jobs for the county. Room and board collected was $3,704 and $1,500 toward their costs and fines.

Forty inmates have participated in the mental health group program, and five inmates completed the anger management program.

Service Access and Management Agency is currently in the process of coordinating with the prison to offer housing options for inmates with mental health needs, and peer mentoring services are being offered for inmates who are interested in successful reintegration into society.

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