The work-release program at the Lawrence County jail is expected to resume next month.

At a reconvened meeting Thursday, the prison board approved hiring Dale “Butch” Wehr as the program’s coordinator.

Wehr has worked 2 1/2 years as a legislative aide for state Rep. Frank LaGrotta at the Ellwood City legislator’s Butler and Slippery Rock offices. Wehr said he expects to begin work in September.

The Shenango Township resident formerly worked at the New Castle Youth Development Center for more than 20 years. He also served 1 1/2 years as an office investigator for attorney Susan Papa.

President Judge Dominick Motto said yesterday he intends to sign an order next week that reinstitutes the work-release program the first week of September.

It was discontinued two years ago because of an ongoing problem of drugs being smuggled into the jail by work-release inmates. The county has since purchased a drug-detection wand to scan incoming inmates.

The only thing holding back the restarting of the work-release program has been the hiring of a coordinator, Motto said yesterday.

The county received three applications for the job. The position was initially offered to a jail employee, but she eventually declined the position. That left Wehr and county detective Richard Presnar as the remaining applicants.

Presnar has since been hired to perform security work at the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center.

Motto abstained from voting for Wehr’s hiring because Wehr is married to his niece, Sherry.

Prison board members Controller Mary Ann Reiter and District Attorney John Bongivengo were absent from the meeting, which was called to order Wednesday. It was then recessed until Thursday because of a lack of a quorum.

The three commissioners, Fosnaught, Steve Craig and Dan Vogler, and county Sheriff Perry Quahliero cast votes in favor of Wehr.

His salary will be approximately $20,000 annually.

The prison board also appointed Melissa Joseph as a full-time counselor at a pay of $24,093 annually.

Joseph previously worked as a part-time corrections officer at a rate of $12.65 per hour. The change in positions constitutes a reduction of her hourly wage of about $1.

Her appointment was unanimous.

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