SUNBURY — With salary and benefits combined, a corrections officer can earn between $44,000 and $58,000 during the first year on the job at the Northumberland County Jail, according to information provided as part of a discussion about staff turnover during Wednesday’s prison board meeting.

Commissioner Sam Schiccatano believes turnover of corrections officers is not just a problem Northumberland County is experiencing.

He tasked Warden Bruce Kovach with finding out how much surrounding counties pay their corrections officers.

“I have heard other counties’ salaries may be higher, but our benefits are much better,” Schiccatano said.

Following the meeting, he said the base salary for an officer is $27,300. With a health insurance plan for a single person, salary and benefits would total $43,321.

If the officer selects a family health insurance, salary and benefits would total $57,559.

Kovach said, the prison has 83 full-time staff members. Of those, 73 are corrections officers. The prison also has five part-time officers. Those individuals do not wish to be full-time.

Kovach said five new officers will start on Monday.

He said a consultant has recommended the prison employ 79 full-time officers. The county is still waiting to receive state recommendations.

“I don’t anticipate ever being at 100%, with turnovers,” Kovach said. “We are striving to achieve 100%.”

He noted that turnover of corrections officers is common and said he recently learned New York state is recruiting officers in Virginia.

Sheriff Robert Wolfe said the high turnover rate is nothing new for the county, as the same problem was experienced at the old prison.

“This is not unique to our new jail,” Wolfe said.

Kovach also noted that the jail has brought on quality employees.

“We are bringing in some good people,” he said. “We are growing, maturing. We are getting a good core group of people in. I am happy with our new recruits ... our senior members.”

Kovach said the jail now houses 276 inmates. It has a capacity of 284.

Of the county’s current inmate population, 14 are from Schuylkill County, four from Union County and three from Snyder.

In June, Kovach said, the county netted $40,000 in revenue by housing inmates from other counties. He said there are various reasons why county transfer inmates to other counties.

“If they have to separate (inmates) or have conflict issues, they like to transfer inmates,” he said.

(1) comment

Schreff

Let's talk about what the present County Commissioners Schiccatano admitted what was lacking by the Board and that is communication. In order to effectively administer a county government those who have the fiduciary responsibility to administer under the County Code must communicate with other counties and individuals to seek advice and explanations. This doesn’t mean paying for high priced consultants. The Prison Board and Retirement Board along with the Commissioners must either communicate or delegate in order to administrate their duties prudently under the County Code. The Retirement Board too has failed to communicate. It has been many years since the Board have passed a cost of living adjustment for their retirees. Evidently they don't care because there is absolutely no communication between them and their retirees. Ask them how many years and why they have failed to communicate with former employees who are now retired. Ask them what other counties are doing and why with the financial markets doing so well they have failed to grant a cost of living adjustment. Ask them why prior to 2004 there were cost of living increases granted at least every two or three years and since then only one or two in 15 years. Something is wrong and a performance audit is needed. Also, according to these retirees, there is no communications between the County and those who retired from public service. It is unfair for those retirees who live day to day awaiting their small retirement checks which are the same as they were 10 years ago. Health care and prescription costs under Obamacare have risen dramatically and so have taxes and gas prices. We live in a very distressed economic area and with an economic horizon that looks dark perhaps it is time for a change to home rule. Look at the last twenty years and there has been little or no economic development in an area that has been stagnant since coal was king, our manufacturers were booming and our main streets were thriving. Stupidly, we turned away a federal prison due to lack of support by the people along with the press. This along with the above factors are leading indicators that government change is needed and that is a well designed home rule charter and perhaps a consolidation of counties and other local governments. For example, why do we still have a Prothonotary and Register and Recorder when this could be administered under the Courts? Government is still the problem and it is getting bigger instead of smaller in the Swamps.

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