CLEARFIELD — The Clearfield County Salary Board recently discussed adding a lieutenant position to the Clearfield County Jail and voted to raise salaries for deputy wardens.
The Salary Council voted to increase the salaries of the Deputy Director/Programs and Deputy Director/Operations by $7,000 per year.
Commissioner Dave Glass said the move was intended to make salaries more competitive with similarly sized prisons.
Comptroller Robert Edwards agreed and said the pay increase would put deputy wardens’ salaries roughly in the middle of Class 6 county jails.
Before the raise, deputy managers earned about $42,500, according to Edwards.
Warden David Kessling said the prison has had seven deputy wardens since he was hired as warden two years ago, and the main reason for turnover is the low pay and heavy workload of deputy wardens .
The prison board voted unanimously to approve the salary increase.
Glass also recommended that the salary board add a lieutenant/director of training position to the prison and set his salary at $42,000 per year. The lieutenant position would work the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift
Kessling argued for the addition of the position, saying there used to be a lieutenant at the prison but was removed for some reason several years ago. He said the lieutenant position is needed due to a lack of supervision during that shift.
However, Commissioner John Sobel said he does not support the creation of the lieutenant position at this time. He said they had just heard of possible proposals to increase mental health services at the prison, some of which would include adding another post.
“It seems like every month that goes by, someone is offering to raise someone’s salary in prison or create another position,” Sobel said.
He noted that the county still hasn’t hired a new superintendent at the jail and said they should wait until the new superintendent is in place before making a decision on the matter.
Kessling announced in July that he would step down as manager effective September 30.
Glass argued that the Warden and two Deputy Wardens were insufficient to provide sufficient training and supervision to prison staff. He said there will always be turnover at the jail because the county can’t compete with some places in salary; therefore, on-site training is important and noted that the prison has been flagged by the state for not having enough training.
He noted that Jefferson County has an on-site training officer at their jail, and their jail is much smaller than Clearfield County’s. He added that by not having properly trained staff, it costs the county money because under-trained staff are not as effective.
“It’s not like the director went over budget and asked us for more,” Glass said. “He’s constantly, since he’s been here, been under budget and he’s just trying to make it work.”
Edwards agreed and said that this year the prison would be under budget by $500,000 to $600,000, which is the past two years.
Edwards recommended that the board approve the position, but wait to fill it until the new director is hired and allow the new director to participate in staffing the position. He said it might help recruit a new manager because the new manager would know he would have that support.
Sobel said he thought they were getting ahead of themselves and said they should wait until the new warden is on board and see what the new warden thinks of prison staffing .
And although the prison is under budget, Sobel said they have had increased costs to upgrade prison facilities and are still awaiting proposals to add mental health services to the prison.
Just because there’s a surplus doesn’t mean they have to spend it, Sobel said.
Sobel said he’s not 100% opposed to adding a lieutenant position, he’s just opposed to its addition at this time.
“I just don’t think I have enough information,” Sobel said. “There are too many unknowns out there.”
Commissioner Tony Scotto suggested they table the motion until they have a new warden and wait until they receive proposals from the prison’s health care provider, PrimeCare Medical Inc. of Harrisburg, to provide mental health services in prison. Scotto said the county could consider adding a certified counselor to the jail, which would increase jail costs.
“We are currently reviewing expenses that we are unsure of,” Scotto said.
Glass and Edwards voted in favor of adding the office of lieutenant, Scotto and Sobel voted in opposition, so the motion did not pass.