Commissioners plead for Youngstown prison job retention

By Peter H. Milliken


Mahoning County commissioners unanimously support retaining federally convicted and sentenced undocumented immigrants at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road.

These inmates constitute about 75 percent of the approximately 2,000 prisoners housed at NEOCC, which is owned by the for-profit Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America.

CCA’s contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to house the immigrants here at $69.72 per inmate per day for 1,507 inmates expires May 31, 2015.

CCA must submit a competitive proposal to the bureau by next Thursday if it wants to continue to house the inmates at NEOCC.

The loss of the BOP contract would eliminate most of the 418 jobs at the Hubbard Road prison in Youngstown, which has an annual payroll of about $21.7 million, CCA said.

“It’s important because of the jobs that we would lose. We’d lose over 400 jobs,” if the prison loses the contract, said Carol Rimedio-Righetti, chairwoman of the county commissioners. “It’s important for all government entities to stay together and put these resolutions out,” she said Thursday.

“When you’re talking 400 jobs within Mahoning County that pay $40,000 plus [a year] with benefits, and they’re paying city income tax, and they’re doing a lot for our economy, it’s just extremely important,” Commissioner David Ditzler added.

A letter from CCA officials to Mayor Charles Sammarone said CCA fears the prison bureau may consolidate NEOCC’s contract with another contract held by the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Phillipsburg, Pa.

The Moshannon Valley pact for 1,820 inmates at $65.22 per inmate per day, expires April 1, 2016.

Chris Burke, U.S. Bureau of Prisons public affairs specialist, said his agency is not consolidating contracts, but it needs about 2,000 inmate beds in the region consisting of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

Burke said the prison bureau evaluates proposals to house prisoners on both price and nonprice criteria and that award selection is based on the best value for the government.

In other action, commissioners heard Scott Lynn, chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which operates the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna, say the airport had nearly nonexistent passenger traffic seven to eight years ago but is now approaching 100,000 passengers a year.

“The agency’s in the best shape it’s ever been in,” Lynn said of the authority, where he has been a trustee for nine years.

Dan Dickten, the authority’s aviation director, said the airport expects to handle about 90,000 passengers this year and more than 100,000 next year.

Allegiant, which recently announced new nonstop jet service from here to Punta Gorda, Fla., that starts Oct. 30, will probably initiate flights from here to Las Vegas within 12 to 18 months, Dickten added.

Weekly air service from here to Atlantic City is under discussion; and the authority is in discussions with several air carriers about daily flights to Chicago, where connecting flights to destinations around the country and the world would be available, Dickten added.

Among the approximate $4 million in airport improvements made during the last two years are replacement of all curbing and sidewalks, installation of new signs, new parking lots, a new terminal boiler and air conditioning system, one rebuilt passenger boarding bridge and one new one, Dickten said.

The local boom in oil and gas drilling and related services will also significantly increase traffic at the airport, said Commissioner Anthony Traficanti.

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