In Centre County, commissioners get Sandusky update|
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
BELLEFONTE - At yesterday's Centre County Commissioners meeting, Denise Elbell, acting prison administrator, was questioned during the press conference about Jerry Sandusky and the days following his incarceration.
Sandusky was found guilty Friday night on 45 of 48 sexual abuse charges against children who were in his Second Mile Club.
Elbell said Sandusky is on suicide watch, but that is standard for any new inmates that arrive at the county lock-up. She said he is also in solitary confinement.
Monday night, Sandusky asked if he was allowed to make a phone call to his wife, and Elbell said after consulting with his physician, Dr. Culvert, who tends to everyone at the prison, she advised it was OK for him to make the call.
"Typically if someone is on suicide watch, they are to have no contact with their families," Elbell said.
She noted that all inmates in the pod are in there for basically the same reason. His cell is about 5 x7 feet and there are no windows.
Elbell anticipates Sandusky will be in the county lock-up until he is sentenced. His only interaction is with the guard who takes him his meals.
The doctor will be evaluating Sandusky in the near future to see if he needs to remain in solitary confinement.
Elbell also noted she has no idea what the costs are to the county from the two-week trial, as everything was charged to a cost center. Once all of the invoices arrive she will be able to print a list of expenses.
Elbell said some of the possible costs include the rooms to house the jurors, and she knows the county had more sheriff's deputies on duty throughout the trial.
While she is not sure, she said the attorney general's office might cover some expenses.
In other matters, the commissioners approved a $12,425,000 contract with Motorola Solutions to upgrade the radio communications system.
Dan Tancibok, 911 director, was joined by a host of people as he spoke about the project and noted it has been in the works for a long time.
Larry Bickford, consultant, said within the last six months, an agreement was reached between the county and Motorola.
Gene Lauri, Director of Criminal Justice Planning Department, has been helping with the project and said there is a plan to proceed.
Commissioner Chris Exarchos thanked Motorola while commissioner Michael Pipe said the upgrades would improve how the emergency responders operate.
"Motorola did a fantastic job," commissioner chairman Steve Dershem said. "I appreciate it, as we had their backs to the wall a few times, but Motorola has come through for us and they are a great partner."
The commissioners were asked if the project was bid and they said it was not, as there are only a handful of companies that can deal with such a project, but they did do price comparison.
"Motorola gave the county a significant savings," Exarchos said. "The emergency services get a better system and the taxpayers pay less, it's a win-win all around."
Bickford said advertising the project was and is always an option, but the commissioners chose to stay with Motorola if they could come up with a competitive price, and they have done that. He said bidding isn't always the best option.
"I got beat up last year for not signing a $20 million deal," Dershem said. "But here we are, with a new deal and significant savings."
According to Bickford, the 911 center covers less than 50 percent of the county with its existing towers. Once the project is complete, it will be able to cover approximately 90 percent. He said the county will go from five tower sites to 17 and the county will go from an analog system to a digital system.
One existing tower will be replaced and the other towers exist and the county should be able to rent space on them.
Aside from the $12 million project, the commissioners also approved a memorandum of understanding with Penn State University where the university will contribute $4 million to the project and will pay 20 percent of the actual maintenance and support costs of the 911 system incurred by the county on an annual basis.
Tancibok said the county and the university have worked together for a number of years and should one system fail, the other would be used for dispatching. He said with the new MOU it will become one system, not two tied together.
Steve Shilo with the university said they can back up each system, "We're delighted to do that and we appreciate being able to communicate over fire, police and EMS six or seven Saturday's a year."
"We have a good partnership with Penn State," Exarchos said. "I'm glad we can partner with them."
The project is still 20-24 months away from going live, according to Exarchos.
The commissioners also approved an agreement between the county and Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology to begin a major expansion project.
They intend to do three expansion projects, the first being for transportation. There are also plans for healthcare and other areas.
The project is expected to be about $10 million.
Todd Taylor said enrollment has increased significantly as well. He said there are 400-450 secondary students and a total of 1,300 counting adults, and they expect that number to go even higher. He said part of the increase is driven by Marcellus shale.