KITTANNING – A shortage of corrections officers for the Armstrong County Jail led to an agreement last week that will allow sheriff’s deputies to fill in shifts at the prison until new workers can be hired.
At their meeting last week, county commissioners Don Myers, Jason Renshaw and Pat Fabian approved a agreement with Teamsters Local Union 538 that will clear the way for deputies to work at the county jail.
“We have a staff shortage at the Armstrong County Jail,” Fabian said, noting that the jail is currently down 6 to 8 full time corrections officers, and has no part-timers in its roster right now. “Everybody is having a hard time finding employees. This isn’t just a problem in Armstrong County, but across Pennsylvania.”
Fabian said that the staff shortages have put “a lot of strain on the existing staff,” and that the county’s Prison Board brainstormed a lot about what to do, coming up with the solution involving the deputies.
“The sheriff’s deputies stepped up,” he said, noting that they were willing to help fill in some of the gaps. “Kudos to that department.”
The commissioners said that they were still waiting to hear back from Armstrong County President Judge James Panchik who was looking into a similar arrangement with officers from the county’s Probation Department.
Myers said that although the staffing shortage is nothing new, it has taken time to get to this point because of the multiple labor unions involved.
“It’s a team effort,” Fabian said, adding that the county continues to advertise for correctional officers, but is not getting any applicants.
Myers also noted that the deal with the deputies is temporary until other workers can be hired.
Fabian said the county has also been working on a new three-year contract with the union that represents the correctional officers, and that he hopes that new deal will help attract people to apply for the positions.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” he said.
In other business at last week’s meeting, the commissioners approved a resolution that permits the county’s Department of Public Safety to seek reimbursement for costs the county incurs related to hazardous material spills.
The resolution states that the county can bill the third party responsible for spills related to motor vehicle accidents, rail accidents, industrial and commercial spills, or other kinds of hazardous material spills.