LEWISTOWN - Calling it a "win-win" for the county, the Mifflin County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously voted to approve an inmate housing agreement with Juniata County.
Thursday's vote comes on the heels of a decision made Tuesday by the Juniata County Commissioners to close down the neighboring county's prison in an effort to save approximately $600,000 a year from its budget.
"This is definitely a win-win," Commissioner Mark Sunderland stated. "We have the bed space and a lot of our costs are fixed. By taking in these inmates we can reduce some of those fixed costs."
Sunderland said the Mifflin County Correctional Facility already houses female inmates from both Juniata and Perry counties. He said the prison population as of Thursday was 80 and there's plenty of room for more.
"Back in the early 2000s the county did a massive renovation to the facility that cost $9 million," Sunderland said. "We also have an annex over here that the taxpayers of Mifflin County are paying bonds on. This is a way that we can recoup some of that money."
Sunderland said the agreement states that Juniata County will pay Mifflin County $55 per inmate per day through the remainder of 2012. Following that, the costs will be $62 in 2013, $65 in 2014, $68 in 2015 and $70 in 2016. The agreement also has an out-clause of one year should Juniata County decide to renovate the current prison or construct a new one in the years ahead.
Prior to voting on the agreement, Commissioner Kevin Kodish read a statement reflecting on the action.
"Our Mifflin County Correctional Facility received total reconstruction a little more than a decade ago," he said. "Today, our facility provides quality treatment services and maintains a physical environment which assures the safety of the public, staff and inmates. The correctional facility also offers detainees and sentenced inmates the chance to participate in numerous programs while they are housed in the facility.
"About two months ago we honored the staff members of our Mifflin County Correctional Facility for achieving a perfect score on the Commonwealth's evaluation of the facility. The 100 percent evaluation marked the seventh consecutive occasion our facility earned such a lofty distinction, and we take pride in noting the fine performance of our corrections staff.
"Our colleagues in Juniata County have been wrestling with their correctional facility situation for the past several months. Though Tuesday's decision by our Juniata County colleagues did not receive unanimous approval from the people of Juniata County, the commissioners' move will enable Juniata County to save significant dollars in the coming months and years, while at the same time enabling our county to receive additional income to help offset the net operational costs of our facility.
"If in the future Juniata County wishes to renovate its correctional facility or construct a new structure, they will be able to do so. With a rated capacity of 140, our Mifflin County Correctional Facility can easily accommodate Juniata County's inmate population. Since the annex building was purchased and renovated for correctional use several years back, that building could also be utilized if space becomes an issue in the future."
In other business Thursday, the commissioners gave their final approval to move forward with the county's 911 radio upgrade project.
Director of Public Safety Phil Lucas was on hand to recommend approval of the low bid by ComPros of Altoona in the amount of $630,891.65 for the project, which will upgrade the county's 911 radio system to meet mandated improvements by the state. In addition to the new equipment, Lucas said the contract also includes all first-year maintenance on the entire system.
"And the project came in under budget," he added.
Following Lucas's report, the commissioners unanimously approved the bid.
In other action, the commissioners:
Approved the following Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) fiscal year 2011 sub-recipient agreements: $8,322.04 to the Mifflin-Juniata Regional Services Corporation; $53,200 to Juniata Terrace Borough; $23,609 to Armagh Township; $20,000 to Newton Hamilton Borough; $18,408.04 to the Mifflin-Juniata Dental Clinic; and $9,026.02 to Snyder-Union-Mifflin Child Development.
Hired James D. Smith for courthouse security effective June 29.
Hired Raina Mock for summer youth employment in the treasurer's office through the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit #11 effective July 2.
Promoted Bernadette Mullen from part-time to full-time corrections officer effective July 1.
Promoted Michelle Weaver to full-time lieutenant at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility effective July 1.
Approved the following purchase of service agreements for use, if needed, by Children & Youth: NHS of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg; Vianey Seinnick, Lewistown; and Shippenville Project Point of Light Inc., Shippenville, PA.
Approved a resolution to update to the county's Hazard Mitigation Plan as per state mandate.
Hired Ren C. Fultz as an unpaid intern at the correctional facility effective June 25.
Accepted the resignation of Erin Goss from the public safety office.
Hired Nicole Kitzmiller as a county caseworker I in the Children & Youth department effective July 9.