Fayette County Jail Can & Should Purchase Body Scanner

For years, yes years, I have advocated implementing inmate work programs (as required) but it was met with excuses. The excuses included they could not prevent contraband from entering the jail. When I said to do the body search that was met with we have no place to do it. When I said to purchase a scanner that was met with we have no money.

My opinion? All excuses, not reasons. Eligible inmates should be in the community doing work not sitting in a cell and visitors should be better searched.

Read what Washington County has done search .   One of the first conversations I had with Fayette County’s new warden, both one on one and at the Prison Board Meetings was this subject.  This is the latest June prison board meeting

The Warden has started the process of obtaining information and it is on the August Prison Board Agenda for our meeting tomorrow Wed, August 28th……………which I learned this morning was canceled due to a lack of quorum as per the legal ad in today’s newspaper.

@ the Prison Board Meeting

Under Public Comment it was asked why the Agenda for this meeting was not posted on the county website.  I do not know how many more times I can talk about the importance of uploading Agenda’s for Public Meetings to the website.  It was promptly said by the chief county solicitor Jack Purcell that while it is not required to be made public it is a good idea.  Again, it is a matter of a few clicks. It needs to be placed on the meeting page and the calendar.  This meeting agenda like today’s Salary Board Meeting Agenda should have been uploaded.   It was touted by fellow Commissioners the “new and improved website”. Yes it now has new bells & whistles but like I’ve said its the content that matters.

Also asked was the status of the RFP for the new jail.  FYI, some prison board members interviewed the vendors. The vendors were  CDI Architects Group dba LR Kimball, Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates, Desmone Architects, Pieper Obrien Herr Architects, STV Architects & Engineers, USA Architects and Vitetta  (two returned for 2nd interviews which were LR Kimball and Pieper Obrien)

Finally, the Warden stated his need for a van and wished to use the funds set aside to purchase a body scanner.  While I agree that a van could be purchased once funds are designated I still want the body scanner purchased, installed and used.  For far too long, the excuse given as to why we do not have inmate work release program and inmate work program is because they fear contraband.  As I have said before and continue to say there are ways to minimize the contraband as we have all discussed several times.  The work programs need to be utilized.

Lame Duck & Jail Repairs

Lame Duck means decisions made by those  who were  not re-elected. As editorials of other newspapers wrote, lame duck decisions defy the will of the electorate and unnecessarily hinder incoming newly elected officials. Given the November election two seated commissioners, Al Ambrosini and Vince Zapotosky, will not be returning to our courthouse.

Fayette County is not alone as Beaver, Lackawanna, Westmoreland and other counties have lame duck issues. Those vacating commissioners, however, appear to be taking their solicitors’ legal advice and they are not making decisions which otherwise can wait until the 2016 board of commissioners take office. My efforts urging my fellow Commissioners  to do the same has not been heeded.

To name a few examples, our healthcare consultant contract does not expire until December 2016 yet they extended it through 2019. They authorized payment to disputed consultant invoices amounting to more than $275,000. Some of their personnel decisions are set for litigation and appeals. They are set to restructure our IT department by entering into a no-bid five-year $840,000- plus contract. They are set to change the structure of our hotel tax ordinance, and they placed on the agenda a resolution which limits competitive bidding.  In addition, numerous personnel decisions ranging from creating new positions, changing  job descriptions, hirings, terminations and salary adjustments have been made.

I have again reached out to our county solicitors to remind them of the seriousness of this and have them discuss case law and legal opinions with our lame duck commissioners. I am informed that earlier this month the Beaver County solicitor advised his two commissioners against making certain decisions and instead allow the incoming board of commissioners to do so. I was also informed that the Beaver County solicitor cautioned its salary board against creating positions and making other personnel decisions. It was reported that the Beaver County Commissioners heeded their solicitors advise.

I would like to be given the opportunity to discuss with my two incoming commissioners my initiatives as well as listen to theirs. As a new board we should be given the opportunity to share our vision and suggestions. We may restructure departments, implement new policies etc, however, will be hindered by their lame duck decisions.

Entering into contracts, some personnel issues and their policy changes have no legitimate reason to be decided now and unjustly binds our new board of commissioners financially and in our policymaking not just for 2016 but our entire four-year term.

Now for the elephant in the room. You have been reading about leaks, lack of cleanliness and immediate needed repairs in our jail. You have been reading comments of current elected officials, incoming elected officials, union reps, correction officers, management and editorials. What you have not been reading is what is now being done to correct the needed repairs and why have those repairs not been made.

At this time, I will not address why the repairs have not been done other than to say our county has a work order system in place and when maintenance and repair work cannot be performed internally we have the capability of contracting out. Also funds can be available for the asking. Period. I will address that issue when the new board of commissioners and new prison board take office.

The elephant in the room is the current needed repairs that should be done but no one is talking about. With a second commissioner signature a company could be on site to make immediate needed repairs and a company could be on site to commence cleaning. If I am unable to secure a second commissioner signature, then I, the inmates, the jail management and union staff will have to wait for me to garner a second commissioner signature on or about Jan. 4th

(in today’s Herald Standard but they did not link it online – I will contact them)