Warden: Overtime costs, staff turnover increasing

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Overtime costs at the Blair County Prison continue this year to come in at more than $20,000 for a two-week pay period, despite last year’s plan to cut overtime by hiring 12 full-time corrections officers.

It went down “some” after last year’s hirings, Warden Michael Johnston told the prison board at its monthly meeting Thursday.

But it’s back up, the warden said offering his disappointment.

And staff turnover is up, too, the warden added.

In a report prepared last May, Deputy Warden Randy Pollock calculated the prison’s turnover at 25 percent. As of March 7, Johnston said staff turnover is up to 31.58 percent.

Six part-timers hired last year worked less than three months before resigning, the warden told the prison board, reporting their days worked as 66, 81, 56, 39, two and 18.

Of four full-time corrections officers hired last year, two left after nine days, one after 15 days and one more after 38 days.

“If we were at full staff, I don’t think we’d have an overtime issue,” Johnston said.

For the most recent two-week pay period of Feb. 25 to March 10, overtime to cover vacant shifts came in at $29,495, the highest amount so far in 2017.

For the previous two-week pay period, overtime totaled $25,024. Reasons for open shifts included vacant positions, training, sick time and vacations.

Prison board member and Controller A.C. Stickel asked if departing employees are interviewed, and Pollock said he has made inquiries.

The work environment is a familiar reason for leaving, Pollock said.

District Attorney Richard Consiglio, who sits on the prison board, said he thinks it takes “a pretty tough mind” to work in the prison.

Mandated overtime is another reason, Pollock added, with departing employees saying they “don’t want to live here” and desire a more predictable schedule.

Commissioner Bruce Erb asked if there’s “something missing” in the hiring process, which leaves the job applicants unaware of the kind of work they’ll be doing and the kind of facility they’ll be working in.

“Trust me,” the warden said. “We paint a dark picture of the facility when we’re interviewing these people.”

Johnston asked about the possibility of the prison having its own human resources director, which might permit the hiring process to move faster and keep the staff levels higher. While the prison’s administrators interview job candidates, additional background research rests with the county’s human resources department. Commissioners showed interest, and Erb directed Johnston to submit a job description for review and consideration.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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