SUNBURY — Citing an increased workload created by the opening of the new Northumberland County Jail, the county’s salary board on Wednesday approved creating a new court administration executive assistant position.

A brief salary board meeting was held Wednesday morning, immediately prior to the monthly prison board meeting.

The person hired to fill the position will earn $32,500 per year and work 75 hours over a two-week period.

President Judge Charles Saylor told the board that at one point, court administration had four employees working in the office.

Sometime after the former prison burned in 2015, Saylor said one of those positions were cut.

Now that the new prison is operational, he said more hearings will take place utilizing video conferencing.

“That will require more time on our end, but will lessen the time for the sheriff’s office,” Saylor said, noting there will be fewer inmate transports.

He said the position is also necessary as the courts are handling more cases involving Children and Youth Services.

While the vote to add the position was unanimous, Commissioner Kym Best expressed concerns that other executive assistants in the county are earning less than the salary that will be paid to the new position.

“I don’t have a problem with what the judge needs,” Best said. “I understand why he needs it. My concern is with fairness... There are people, with many years experience, who are only making $32,000.”

She said the salary board needs to closely assess the situation.

“I think that’s a wholly separate matter,” Commissioner Chair Rick Shoch said, in response to Best’s concerns. “”It should not be addressed on the fly today.”

Best told Shoch that she was not asking for any decisions to be made “on the fly.” Rather, she would like the board to evaluate the pay rates for executive assistants to make sure they’re equal.

In a separate vote, the salary board approved increasing the salary of Brenda Walburn, administrative assistant at the prison, to $28,000, effective Wednesday.

Warden Bruce Kovach told the salary board that Walburn recently took on additional responsibilities, following the retirement of an employee.

“Her workload has increased, probably three fold, since I took over as warden (in 2015),” Kovach said.

An increase, to $23,000 per year, was also approved for Tara Purcell, assistant registrar in the elections office.

Shoch said the office was having a hard time keeping anyone in the position due to a low pay rate.

During Wednesday’s prison board meeting, Kovach said there are currently 207 men and 38 women incarcerated in the prison. The prison population hit a high of 278 at one point in November.

A 35-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues was held as part of the meeting.

Following the meeting, Commissioner Sam Schiccatano corrected erroneous information he had relayed during Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

During the meeting, Schiccatano said PrimeCare Medical, which provides medical care for inmates, increased its fees to the county from $30,000 per month prior to the fire to $91,000 now.

Schiccatano said that information was incorrect. Instead, the company was charging $60,000 per month prior to the fire.

He plans to meet with representatives from PrimeCare later this month in an effort to renegotiate the fee.

A special commissioners meeting has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday “for consideration of the county’s health care provider.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Steve Cook, the county’s budget director, said the county will be paying $1.4 million more in 2019 for medical benefits for its 234 employees.

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