Persistence is paying off for Blair County with the expected opening of a central booking center only weeks away.
For three years, officials have been working on a project to open a booking center at the Blair County Prison, where suspects would be fingerprinted and photographed before being arraigned by a magisterial district judge through videoconferencing at prearranged times.
Depending on the outcome of the arraignment, the suspect will be committed to jail or released.
It's expected a central booking center will reduce the amount of time that police officers spend booking suspects, allowing them to return to duty faster or reduce overtime.
Nearly two years ago, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency rejected the county's request for a grant to build the booking facility, estimated to cost $262,000.
But that setback didn't stop officials from continuing to push the project.
County workers did the carpentry work needed to create the center in the prison, and the county instituted a $175 booking fee for people charged with misdemeanors or felonies to help cover the cost of equipment and staffing.
The revenue from the fee has come in slower than expected because many suspects are on payment plans. Still the funds are accumulating, and currently there is $177,000 in the account to help cover staffing costs for the center, which at one point were estimated at more than $200,000 a year.
Now comes word that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency has approved a $48,000 grant to buy equipment for the booking center, including a machine for digitally recording finger and palm prints and another to connect the center with a state photo imaging network that can provide information on outstanding warrants and criminal histories on the suspects.
Thanks to the grant, county officials now expect the booking center to be operating in about two or three months.
But it could not have happened without the foresight and commitment of area officials over a three year period. For that, they deserve our thanks.