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Schuylkill County News

Schuylkill Commissioners Asked to Approve ANOTHER Extension on Pre-release Prison Contract

A Commissioner who supports the idea of a pre-release prison says the project cost is “out of control.”

Schuylkill County Commissioners heard a proposal last week to extend a contract for a firm that’s looking into the feasibility of a long-held County government pipedream … a pre-release prison.

The contract the County is looking to extend is with Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates, of Mechanicsburg in Cumberland County, until July 31, 2024. The contract it signed back in May 2023 expired in September 2023 and was extended until the end of March of this year.

A vote to extend the contract once more likely will happen at Wednesday’s Commissioners Board Meeting.

It’s the Contract That Never Ends … It Goes On and On

Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates’ contract is to perform an Intermediate Punishment Center site option analysis for the County.

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However, this same firm has been performing this service for Schuylkill County … since 2008!

Now, it’s not – as best we can tell – been an actual never-ending contract. it’s started and stopped over the years. But what we do know is that the County’s obsession with building this pre-release prison has dated back to at least 2008.

The County says it “needs” this pre-release prison because it’s spending far too much money transporting overflow inmates at Schuylkill County Prison to similar facilities in other counties.

However, last year, when this same issue was raised near the end of the year, we learned that the money the County spends annually on transporting inmates to other correctional facilities does not really come near the cost of building and operating a separate pre-release prison in Schuylkill County.

Still, the County seems insistent on building this facility and keeps retaining this firm’s services. In fact, on Election Night in 2023, the two Republican winners – Larry Padora and Boots Hetherington – said it was one of their top priorities going forward.

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Commissioner Gary Hess expressed similar thoughts on this proposed project, too.

“Out of Control” Cost of a Pre-release Prison in Schuylkill County

So, after last Wednesday’s Work Session meeting, The Canary pinned down Padora on why this contract was being extended and what the County’s goal was from it.

Padora says his goal now is to have a meeting with Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates and other interested County parties to “get up to speed with it.”

Right now, before that presumptive meeting takes place, the idea that he supported on the campaign trail just isn’t making sense financially and has become, as he described it, “out of control.”

“We are going to have a meeting and try to see if we can get it back on track to a realistic project again,” Padora said last week. “It’s kind of out of control right now.”

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To that, we asked him, “What’s the out of control part of it, the money?”

He said, “The $26 million.”

That’s the figure he’s hearing on how much this pre-release prison would cost to build. Operating costs could be in the millions per year, too.

We replied, “That doesn’t make financial sense, does it?”

“Not to me,” Padora said.

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“I don’t have all the pertinent information and we’re waiting until we have this meeting so I can ask questions,” Padora added.

As far as extending a deal with Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates and what he plans to find out, it’s not just the feasibility of the pre-release prison but also the seemingly never-ending contracts with this firm.

“How much is this costing us? How much have we spent on this stuff? I’m waiting until we have a meeting so I can ask questions,” Padora added.

Dorms to Cells

One of the questions Padora plans to ask at this presumed meeting in the future is how the goal of this project has changed over the last 16+ years.

“The original intent was a dormitory-style place. Now it’s kind of like a prison,” Padora said.

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What’s interesting about the use of the term “prison” is that few at the County government level are inclined to use that to describe what this proposed facility actually is.

“How did it go from a dormitory style place that didn’t need prison guards to having cells to having prison guards being there to all this other stuff being there? I don’t even know. It kind of took on a life of its own,” Padora said. “I want to see if we can rein it back in and actually accomplish something.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Deiter Seitz

    May 7, 2024 at 6:20 am

    ….knowing the Dems, they will turn this project into a immigration center complete with staff who will just continue to rip it off so they can fatten up their bank accts. Prove me wrong……

    • Canary Commenter

      May 7, 2024 at 10:46 am

      Well, seeing as how the County is mostly controlled by Republicans, that might be a bit of a stretch.

  2. Coalregion12

    May 7, 2024 at 4:02 pm

    Currently the county is paying overtime at a high rate to keep county jail staffed.
    How in the world will they staff this center?
    Covid $ is dried up. Don’t look to anymore Federal or State $ to cover these costs.
    Taxpayers cannot afford any tax increases.
    Cut the losses and move on.
    Think of Regionalizing with other counties on a pre-release center.

    • Chris

      May 8, 2024 at 6:42 pm

      I agree with Coalregion12. Why not reach out to other counties to share the burden of construction and operating costs? Still, $26 million is excessive!! Makes one wonder if Roy Heim has already been given a green light to build this Prison Palace. Stop the Insanity! The taxpayers are sick and tired of irresponsible spending at the County. Maybe we need some fresh blood in the, so-called, Finance Department.

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