Board urges prison expansion

Commissioners have rejected bids twice

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Blair County Prison Board’s expansion committee is advising commissioners to move ahead with a proposed security improvement project, board Chairman A.C. Stickel said Thursday.

The commissioners have twice rejected bids, due to bidding issues, for what’s expected to be a $1 million-plus effort to purchase and install additional security cameras, along with controls and monitoring devices.

After the second bid rejection earlier this month, commissioners Bruce Erb, Laura Burke and Amy Webster agreed to seek input from the prison board before advertising a third time.

Stickel said he spoke with the expansion committee members — Warden Abbie Tate, President Judge Elizabeth Doyle and Webster — and concluded that there’s no way to scale back the proposed project.

“Everything is connected to the cameras, to doors, to control systems,” Stickel said. “No, it’s not possible to just cut out a section.”

Stickel offered the conclusion after Thursday’s prison board meeting where those attending — Stickel, Doyle, Burke and Chief Deputy Christopher Tatar for Sheriff Jim Ott — didn’t discuss the matter. Commissioners Erb and Webster were handling election board duties at that time.

Stickel said the expansion committee members remained in favor of the project moving forward, even though the cost has increased.

In the first solicitation late last year, the lowest bid came in at $1.03 million, but it didn’t identify camera unit prices, as required. In the second solicitation, the lowest bid was $1.18 million, which reflected an option of using an alternative software for installation, something a higher bidder had been advised could be pursued later.

County leaders have been interested — at least since 2017 — in installing more security cameras at the prison, a recommendation that developed after a state Department of Corrections prison study was completed.

They’ve also discussed the idea of building a new prison that could be the focus of a $185,000 proposed study for which the county is seeking a grant.

At Thursday’s meeting, Warden Tate praised all prison employees for extra efforts that yielded “one of the best (state) inspections we’ve had in recent history.”

She said the inspectors, as of Tuesday, pinpointed four items to be addressed and were satisfied, as of Wednesday, with actions taken to address them. She said the inspectors were complimentary toward the staff and the cleanliness of the facility.

“Our entire staff stepped up to get that building in the best shape it can be in,” Tate said. She also said that the county maintenance crew helped with a couple of last-minute efforts before the inspectors arrived.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.


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