County will no longer rely on constables to move inmates
SUNBURY - In order to save money, Northumberland County commissioners will no longer use state constables to transport inmates to and from arraignments and hearings.
On a split vote Tuesday, the commissioners placed the responsibility of paying constable fees and transporting prisoners on the municipalities that arrest them.
Voting in favor of the move were Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy. Commissioner Richard Shoch opposed the motion, claiming shifting the fees and transportation responsibility to
already financial-strapped municipalities will end up costing taxpayers more money.
The change takes effect Jan. 1.
In May, the commissioners unanimously rescinded their April motion to no longer use state constables to transport inmates to and from arraignments and hearings to allow an advisory board comprised of law enforcement officials to study the cost-effectiveness and ramifications of the move and return to the board with a recommendation.
Shoch said advisory board members met several times, but felt there was no sense pursuing the issue because the majority commissioners (Bridy and Clausi) had already made up their minds to stop using the constables to transport prisoners.
Shoch said a more equitable way to divide the expenses with the municipalities needs to be developed.
Ed Quiggle Jr., a constable for the 9th ward in Sunbury, told the commissioners he felt it was a mistake to no longer use constables for transporting inmates to and from hearings and arraignments.
Clausi said only four of the 67 counties in the state use constables for transporting prisoners, a move he claims will save the county $150,000.
According to Controller Tony Phillips, the county primarily uses four constables - Larry Rompallo, Glenn Masser, Harold "Butch" Showers and Ryan Hays - to transport prisoners to and from legal proceedings.
In 2011, Phillips said county constable expenses, including time and mileage, totaled $134,478.38. He said revenue (fines and court costs) generated by using constables in 2011 was $29,644.50 last year, leaving a deficit of $104,833.88.
Although he voted to rescind the motion in May, Clausi warned that the commissioners would not agree to continue to use the state constables for transporting defendants if it is not cost-effective for the county.
The county currently pays constables for their services and then must seek reimbursement from the defendants through fines and costs. Clausi said the county only receives approximately $20,000 per year in reimbursements from defendants through the court's cost collection office.
State constables are paid on average $45.40 plus mileage to transport prisoners. They receive a state rate holding fee of $13 per hour after holding a prisoner for 30 minutes.
Municipal police departments will now be responsible for transporting prisoners, which places an additional financial burden on communities. Unlike the county, municipalities have no legal recourse to recover transportation costs.
The constables will still serve arrest warrants and perform other duties.