SUNBURY — A conversation spanning several meetings over the last four months about how to retain correctional officers at the new jail in Coal Township came to a head Tuesday.
At a public meeting, Prison Board Chair and President Judge Charles Saylor shut down the comments of Fran Ruzicka, of Sunbury, who has two sons working at the prison. She has attended every meeting since April to urge county officials to increase the starting salary above $12.50 and solve the overtime and retention issues, noting she was worried about the safety of her sons and other correctional officers.
"We're just going round and round," said Saylor. "It's the same issue every time you come. It's a union issue. You have to have your sons talk to the union reps. They are certainly adults and they can express their own views. I'm going to cut off the meeting at this point."
Saylor's comments come after Ruzicka confronted Commissioner Rick Shoch about comments he made at Tuesday's public commissioner meeting. Shoch said on Tuesday that her sons chose to work at the prison and continue to do so despite Ruzicka's view on the salary. Ruzicka said she viewed those comments as rude.
Shoch reiterated his statements again on Wednesday.
Commissioner Sam Schiccatano said a correctional officer's total compensation is between $44,000 and $58,000 when considering wages and benefits, depending on single or family health benefits. He said the salary is only one part of the union-negotiated package, and they also get 40 days paid time off when considering vacation, holidays, and PTO.
Warden Bruce Kovach noted that the constant turnover is a "common pain" shared among all prison regardless of the pay scale.
In the last month, five correctional officers were hired and three left, Kovach said.