Overcrowding at prison is a county concern

The Lycoming County commissioners will vote Thursday on an agreement with Columbia County Prison that has the potential to alleviate some of the prison overcrowding here.

County Chief Procurement Officer Mya Toon outlined the agreement for the commissioners, which sets the cost to the county at $65 per day for the housing of a minimum of five inmates at the Columbia County facility.

If less than five inmates need to be housed, the rate increases to $75 per day.

If approved, the agreement will be in place retroactively, as five female inmates were sent to the Bloomsburg facility last Thursday – underscoring the rate of overcrowding in the county prison that has been holding steady since the beginning of the year.

The costs will be paid out of the county’s 2013-14 prison inmate housing budget, Toon said, which was anticipated to be higher than the previous year.

“We saw what costs were rising to with overcrowding and knew it had to be adjusted” from 2012-13, she said.

Even with the cost, Toon said she is confident that the budgeted housing amount for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, will not be exceeded.

The duration of the agreement is for one year and automatically can be renewed if necessary.

In other business, county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski told commissioners that work on a railroad crossing to access a parking lot for the Susquehanna River Walk will begin this week.

“It will be a major improvement,” Murawski said of the two-lane access road that will lead to the 90-space parking lot.

The work includes closing off the Hepburn Street entrance to the city pump station and the installation of a crossing with flashing lights at the railroad tracks 150 feet east of the entrance point.

The commissioners will vote Thursday to approve the county’s contract with the SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority for the project. The authority has hired Mid-State Paving Co. to perform the crossing installation as well as road realignment and trail head work.

The county’s share of the roughly $175,000 cost is about $89,357 and will be paid out of the county’s Act 13 funds, Murawski said.

He added that the parking lot will be closed during construction, but said work should be finished by June 1.

The next county commissioners meeting will be 10 a.m. Thursday at the Pine Street Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.