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Prison Board Asks for More Info; Commissioners Hire New Vets' Affairs Director

A couple members of the Wyoming County Prison Board asked Warden Mickey Ameigh to provide a little more information with regard to the number of prisoners receiving counseling sessions from the Jail Psychiatrist and the number having sessions with treatment specialists. “That would be helpful,” commented County Public Defender Deborah Albert Heise when the statistics provided by Ameigh in his monthly report were reviewed at Tuesday morning’s meeting. 

Currently, the figures list the number of inmates seen by the county’s Mental Health service providers, but does not specify what type of service is being given in each case. There was also a short discussion regarding the availability of the jail to mental health workers who wished to enter the facility to evaluate new inmates.

Albert Heise said she was under the impression that every second Wednesday the jail was off limits because of the staffing requirements of court day. Ameigh replied that “everything is a staffing issue,” and told Albert Heise that court days were not automatically a no-go for mental health workers, but that it depended on how many inmates were needed in court and at what times.

“I would go out to the front door and escort them in,” he said. The conversation was sparked by a comment by Ameigh that sometimes the county’s mental health provider, A Better Today, had to be “reminded” to see an inmate if a few weeks had passed without an evaluation or follow-up. Additionally, Commissioner Judy Mead asked the warden to clarify the doctor and nurse visit fees listed on the same report. Ameigh appeared confused by the question, but then answered that there is a small co-pay for prisoners who have money on their books: $3 for a nurse visit, $5 for a doctor’s visit. He also explained the fees associated with prescriptions and dental work.

However, his report only lists monies taken in, not total number of prisoners receiving medical, dental or pharmaceutical services in any given month. Some of the total number would be classified as “indigent” and not required to pay, but this number is not listed.

Also in the meeting of the Prison Board, Ameigh announced that repairs to block showers and inmate tables is progressing. Many of the repairs, he said, were under warranty and “must be done.” George Mercer, whose new house is sited immediately next to the jail, complained about the noise from the facility’s air conditioning unit on the roof.

To the commissioners’ recollection, Mercer is the first to register a complaint about this. Mercer told the commissioners that baffles could be installed to dampen the sound for about $4,000 and the commissioners replied that since the county’s HVAC specialists were in town checking on an issue at the county’s Human Services building, they would ask them to check into installing a sound dampening system at the jail.

Immediately following the Prison Board meeting, the commissioners held their regular bi-monthly meeting Tuesday morning and hired a new Director of Veterans’ Affairs for the county. First, they had to set the salary, which they said was difficult. “Many of the people we interviewed didn’t want to be paid,” said Commissioner Tony Litwin. “But fair is fair.”

The salary for the part-time position was set at $10,000 a year with no benefits. The money comes from the general fund. There was no hourly limit set on hours worked per week or per year because it varies tremendously with the needs of the county’s veterans. Once the salary was set and approved, John “Jack” Hubert of Tunkhannock was hired as the new director.

Hubert served as a Sergeant in the Marines and saw action in the Vietnam Conflict. He is already active in Veterans' Affairs in the region and works part-time at a local fitness center as well as in a branch of law enforcement.

The commissioners noted that all of the applications they received were from well qualified people, but added that they felt Hubert was the best choice. “He’s very dedicated and compassionate,” commented County Solicitor Jim Davis, who knows Hubert personally.

In other business, the county’s engineering firm that handles Wyoming County bridges, CECO Associates, has been bought by Labella Associates out of Rochester, NY. The new owners say nothing should change with regard to servicing the county.

The commissioners received the welcome news that the county’s 911 Center will receive more money from the state this year for its wireless call volume, which is on the rise. Director Debbie Raimondi said that wireless calls are up from 38 percent of calls received last year to 58 percent of calls received this year; the wireless “year” follows the Federal year, from July to July. The increase, due mostly to people foregoing land lines in favor of wireless mobile phones, means that instead of receiving $655,000 from the state as they did last year, this year the county’s 911 Center will receive $961,613. The money goes toward salaries and benefits for the center employees, and the increase means that some monies previously spent on salaries and benefits can now be spent on equipment and other needs.

The DPW Homeless Assistance Grant for the county was approved. It is administered through CEO and this year’s amount is $22,000. The county's new Pipeline Ordinance, which establishes regulations and setbacks for new subdivisions in the county with regard to gas collection and transmission pipelines, will be advertised next week and will be signed at an upcoming meeting.

 

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