Carbon County officials are narrowing down their search for a new prison warden.

About 30 applications have been received for the $48,000-a year job.

"We received a very good mix of candidates through advertising and from current county employees. The six prison board members have narrowed that down to 10 candidates. I believe we have some very well-qualified candidates, all of which can certainly do the job," said county Commissioners Chairman William O'Gurek.

"The warden's position is a very important one with tremendous responsibilities. I am sure the selection process will be extensive to the point that the board will select someone who we all believe will be able to do this all-important work for us," he said.

The new hire will replace James Youngkin, who retired on March 16, after 24 years working in the county correctional system. The county prison board on April 1 named Timothy L. Fritz of Lehighton, who has 14 years in, as acting warden.

The $48,000 starting salary is negotiable, depending on experience, O'Gurek said. The successful applicant will have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field, and have at least four years experience in the correctional institution with two years in a supervisory position.

As officials search for a new warden, the number of inmates housed at the prison ion Nesquehoning continues to grow.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there 156 inmates. The capacity is 172, Fritz said. The average in January was 133, rising to 166 last month.

"Inmate population has been on the rise for the past few years," Fritz said. "We see a lot more parole violators coming back and that seems to be a lot of the issue. With the economy the way it is, we're seeing an increase because of that as well."

Fritz said when there is an overflow of prisoners, they are housed in the prison gym. "We're kind of right at the cutoff now. Our medium block today has about three empty beds in it. Our max block has one more person in it than we have beds for. I don't see any stop to it any time soon," he said."The economy just doesn't seem to be getting any better. In fact, now that you have the casinos in the areas you're going to see a lot more crime."

The prison board may have to "look at some expansion sometime sooner rather than later," Fritz said.

Prison Board Chairman Sheriff Dwight Nothstein also pointed to the poor economy as one reason for the influx of inmates.

"It's increasing," he said of the prison population. "It's due to the economy, I would believe. People are getting desperate, and they are just going out and doing dumb things to try to make a living. They can't find jobs, they can't pay their (child) support, they can't get along. It's really getting out of hand."