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Schuylkill County News

Proposed Schuylkill Prison HVAC System Meant to Mitigate COVID Spread

schuylkill county prison hvac covid cares act

schuylkill county prison pottsville hvac CARES act

Schuylkill County government officials clearly had plans for the nearly $13 million it received in CARES Act funding earlier this year.

And it’s becoming more obvious those plans didn’t include lending a hand to the many small businesses that fund much of the government’s activities.

Instead, the money seems to be going mostly toward funding the County’s pet projects. These projects are ones that likely wouldn’t get funded without the CARES Act because there’s never enough money in the till for them.

Schuylkill County Prison Board Recommends New HVAC System Using CARES Act Money

One of the latest fruits of the CARES Act money tree is a new HVAC system for Schuylkill County Prison.

According to a Times-News report, the County is recommending Schuylkill Commissioners approve a plan to replace the ventilation system at the historic Pottsville prison. The project would cost more than $770,000. And it would be funded completely by money the County received from its CARES Act allotment.

The reasoning for the new HVAC system and justifying the use of CARES Act funding? To prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Schuylkill County Prison.

The only thing is … there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 at the overcrowded clink since the start of the pandemic.

Schuylkill County Administrator Gary Bender is quoted by the Times-News as saying the problem at the prison isn’t COVID, it’s the humidity.

He said, and we quote … “One of the problems we face over at the prison is high humidity. The walkways are very slippy and also the air that gets recirculated.”

That’s right … “slippy” is what he said.

Bender says his office is checking with the County’s contracted advisor on CARES Act spending, Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC, to see if this project checks all the right boxes to use that money.

Questionable CARES Act Spending

If it does approve the project, this would be the latest questionable use of that CARES Act money by Schuylkill County Commissioners.

Back in early August, Commissioners approved spending $2.197 million of its CARES Act money on emergency mobile dispatch units for the County 9-1-1 system.

So, if the County does agree to buy this new HVAC system for the prison, that would be nearly $3 million in COVID mitigation efforts for places that haven’t had a COVID problem.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the deadline for small businesses in Schuylkill County to apply for a grant to access some of this same CARES Act funding expired. The County never formally announced a grant program for businesses to get back some of the losses they incurred as a result of the government’s pandemic response.

Instead, it sent a message to the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce to invite its members to some of the CARES Act money. But it only gave those businesses 2 weeks to apply for it.

And this just may be the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to questionable CARES Act spending money.

Sources tell us the County is considering using some of the remaining allotment to purchase the former GIANT grocery store property to turn it into a pre-release prison or potential other uses.


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Peter Oushick, Ashland, Pa.

    November 1, 2020 at 9:34 am

    I recently had the displeasure of being an inmate at our County Prison for missing a Court date. The Honorable President Judge told that wouldn’t have to worry about missing another Court date! And in an angry tone committed me to lock up. I am 65 years old now and thinking I want to make an appointment with general practitioner…but I keep forgetting to carry through. I believe I’m experiencing early stages of alzheimer. So they put me in a cell with two other individuals. I was in fear for my life as I just read an article stating my age group was the most likely to die from ’19’ ! 14 days, with only 20 minutes a day for shower and phone calls. No books… nothing. I’m no innocent, but this is punishment beyond reason. Suppose one of those fellows had 19. It’s just inhumane. And tomorrow I go in front of same so he can determine why I shouldn’t be held in ‘Contempt of Court’ and likely be placed again in County lock up ! Not because I’m refusing to pay my debts, but because I receive$328.00 and just don’t have it to give. Thank you for time. Respectfully, Peter Oushick

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