By Rick Hiduk
A short prison board meeting preceded a much longer meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners on Tuesday morning.
Despite the brief agenda, the Aug. 12 meeting was well-attended with Warden Ken Repsher, Sheriff Ned Sherman, District Attorney Jeff Mitchell, Public Defender Deborah Albert-Heise, and President Judge Russell Shurtleff at the table, as well as County Commissioners Judy Mead, Tom Henry, and Ron Williams.
In a brief report, Repsher related that inmate population at the Wyoming County Prison dropped slightly last month to 67. There were no borders from other counties and no Wyoming County inmates outsourced to other facilities. The recently installed boilers are functioning well, he added.
On Friday, Aug. 22, prison officials will meet with representatives of Trinity Services Group at 10 a.m. to finalize a deal that will allow Trinity to take over the kitchen at the prison as a separate entity. Though the amount was not specified, board members indicated that the plan will save the county money.
Prior to adjournment of the meeting, Albert-Heise voiced her approval of the county’s new transportation plan, noting that will provide a much-needed service for those released from the prison. “The program is up and running and available for anyone who needs help re-entering the workforce,” she stated.
One of the popular facets of the new transportation plan is the intent of Trehab, Interfaith and other agencies to ensure that former inmates – many of whom have lost their driving privileges – have access to employment opportunities and job training. (To learn more about the transportation plan as it was further discussed by the commissioners, read http://www.endlessmtnlifestyles.com/?p=1928)
Although it was actually listed on the agenda for the Prison Board meeting, the approved of the hiring of Michelle Fitzsimmons as a full-time corrections officer was finalized during the regular commissioners meeting.
Also during their meeting, the commissioners agreed to the purchase of a new garden tractor that will be used in conjunction with the Wood Project, a work release program that affords prisoners and those recently released from jail an opportunity to earn money to pay off their fines and court costs by cutting, stacking and selling firewood.
“It has really worked well for people who cannot find a job or make money,” said Commissioner Henry. He related that county employee Don Mason runs the program at a facility near the county’s EMA building on East Tioga Street, and Corrections Officer Bill Colbeson transports inmates to and from the site on week days.
Commissioner Mead added that juvenile offenders do age-appropriate tasks at the site on weekends. The wood, most of which is donated to the county, is sold to local residents at fair-market prices.
Henry suggested that there are likely funds or grant money available to cover the $950 cost for the tractor, which will be used to pull wagons full of wood and will also be equipped with a plow during winter months. In the meantime, the board moved to authorize the purchase because the tractor is needed immediately.