New Castle News

January 30, 2014

Prison board drops privatization

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Privatizing the Lawrence County jail is off the table for three years.

The Lawrence County Prison Board agreed Wednesday to stop considering proposals for privatizing the jail for the three-year term of the new jail workers’ contract. The employees’ union agreed to concessions in a new contract, which covers the 2014, 2015 and 2016 calendar years.

The county commissioners still must give formal approval to the new contract.

The proposed contract with Local 964 of Construction and General Laborers Union calls for a wage freeze this year. In 2015 and 2016, employees will get $500 bonuses, but their base wage rate will not change.

The employees also agreed to start paying 5 percent of their health insurance premium, give back four of 15 paid holidays, and accept a drop in hourly wages for new hires from $15.71 to $13.

County Commissioner Robert Del Signore said dropping privatization efforts would show “good will” to the bargaining unit.

Since November, the prison board has been considering a proposal from Community Education Centers Inc. of West Caldwell, N.J., to determine the cost of contracting services at the jail in order to save money. Under privatization, a private firm would have been hired to operate the jail and the employees would no longer have been county employees. The jail represents about 80 of the county’s 400 employees.

Also Wednesday, the board agreed to investigate cost and services available from George Vose, a Massachusetts man with 30 years experience in corrections. The board is interested in consulting with Vose on how to make the jail more cost efficient.

In addition to commissioners Dan Vogler and Del Signore, prison board members present Wednesday were county controller David Gettings and Sheriff Perry Quahliero.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)