HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Blair County Prison may hire 10 more fill-in corrections officers to help the facility cut down on overtime.
At the direction of county commissioners, prison administrators are to come up with a plan, then approach the county salary board. In a previous vote, the salary board created 15 fill-in corrections officers positions, so if that amount is to be increased, the salary board will need to vote again.
"The logical solution is to hire more fill-in officers," Warden Michael Johnston told Commissioner Terry Tomassetti, who asked at Thursday's prison board meeting how to cut the prison's overtime.
In the first five months of 2010, the prison paid $62,700 in overtime, an average of about $12,500 a month.
Overtime is typically incurred to fill vacant shifts for corrections officers on training, on vacation, who call in sick or may be on medical or family leave.
Overtime also is incurred when officers transport inmates to out-of-town facilities and guard hospitalized inmates, both tasks that the sheriff's department used to handle. Since the transfer of those duties, the sheriff department overtime has decreased.
The county budgeted $218,000 for 2010 prison overtime, the amount that was budgeted in 2009.
Records show that by the end of 2009, the prison spent $190,578 for overtime.
Tomassetti commended Johnston for keeping overtime under budget but asked if more could be done.
"It's one thing to be under budget, but if we can be under budget even more, that's even better," Tomassetti said.
Commissioner Diane Meling asked Johnston about looking into how other prisons are staffed.
Blair County's prison has 47 full-time and 17 part-time corrections officers.
While the part-time employees are paid $16.67 an hour and accrue benefits, the fill-in employees are paid $12.77 an hour and do not accrue benefits. Fill-in employees also are scheduled on an as-needed basis.
Commissioners asked Johnston if he could find and hire more fill-in officers.
"That's always been a problem ... but in this day and age, people want and need the work," Johnston said.
President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva, who was attending Thursday's prison board meeting, said the fill-in system "is a really nice screening process" for county employment and Johnson agreed.
"We want the best person out of the fill-in officers to become a part-time officer," Johnston said.