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MERCER COUNTY State gives grant help for jail construction



Published: Fri, March 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mold in the basement of the old jail led to plans to move some employees.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

MERCER, Pa. -- Mercer County is getting some state help to build a new county jail.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has given the county a $435,650 grant for the estimated $20 million project, said James Epstein, president of the Mercer County Prison Board and Mercer County's district attorney.

The rest of the money will come from a $34 million loan the county secured through a bond issue in 2001 to fund the new jail and pay for extensive renovations of the courthouse and replacement of two district justice offices.

The county had asked for $1 million under a program set up by the state several years ago to encourage counties to expand their jail facilities, he said.

Bids on the new jail are to be opened at the courthouse April 28.

The 266-bed lockup will be built on a 31-acre site along Pa. Route 258 at Thompson Road in Findley Township, adjacent to the State Regional Correctional Facility, a minimum-security state prison.

The county jail sewage system will be tied into the prison system and the county will help pay for an expansion of the state's sewage treatment plant, Epstein said.

Also on agenda

In other business Monday, the prison board:

UGave Warden Jeff Gill permission to begin moving some of his eight administrative employees out of the warden's former residence attached to the old jail on South Diamond Street.

The basement of the residence is infested with mold and initial efforts to correct it have been unsuccessful, Epstein said.

The county brought in an air quality assessment company and determined that the mold isn't toxic but does give off an unpleasant ammonialike odor.

The board directed Gill to bring the air quality testing company back for another examination and also authorized Gill to rent an office trailer to put next to the jail if the problem can't be fixed quickly.

In the meantime, one of the administrative people will be moved into the jail lobby and others may be moved into the courthouse annex just across an alley from the jail, Epstein said.

UAnnounced that it is moving forward with plans to convert the work-release section of the jail into women's cells to house a growing number of female prisoners.

The current women's section can hold no more than 10 prisoners, but the work-release section has beds for 24, Epstein said.

The work-release prisoners will be put into the old section for women, he said.

The county recently had complaints from four women inmates temporarily housed in the Cambria County Jail and seven others temporarily housed in the Jefferson County Jail about what they felt was improper treatment and lack of services.

The complaints have been investigated and determined to be unfounded, but Mercer County still wants to keep its female inmates in its own jail, Epstein said.




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