Berks

Berks commissioners hear concerns about privatizing jail

'I hope... you will do your due diligence'

READING, Pa. - The Berks County commissioners heard some concerns Thursday about the possibility of privatizing the county's jail.

West Reading resident Shannon Kozik addressed the commissioners at their weekly meeting, specifically focusing her comments on Commissioner Mark C. Scott's recommendation last week that the county look into privatizing the Berks County Jail in Bern Township..

"I would encourage you to seek out the objective information available regarding the GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Abraxas – all private companies surrounded by controversy," she said. "I respectfully ask that you look to your colleague, Mr. [Kevin] Barnhardt. As prison board chair, he is likely to be more informed than you on these matters."

Kozik stated her concern for correctional officers' compensation, saying, "If you cannot staff the jail properly when officers are being compensated fairly, it will become infinitely more difficult to staff when the pay is cut in half."

“I hope for the sake of Berks County taxpayers, and for the correctional officers that keep them safe, that you will do your due diligence. There are nearly 200 officers and their families watching you carefully, sir," Kozik concluded. "You may not care about these men and women, Mr. Scott, but I have faith that the residents of Berks County do."

In other business, 2017-2018 Berks County Dairy Princess Taylor Pool, Berks County Li'l Miss Dairy Princess Malaina Rhoads, and Berks County Dairy Ambassadors Mikayla Davis, Haley Evans, Natalie Grumbine, Kristin Johns and Stephanie Younkers helped kick off the county's annual employee ice cream social in observance of National Dairy Month.

Pool also shared some of the economic challenges Berks County dairy farmers are facing today.

"Milk production has been steadily trending upward, with consumer demand only increasing by approximately one percent each year," she said. "This has allowed for a three percent excess fluid milk in the industry, causing an excess in supply, with lower demand leading to lower prices."

Pool cited several factors leading to the excess, including an increased number of cows, increased milk production, a decrease in exports to China and the EU, an increase in dairy product stockpiles, and a stronger U.S. dollar, which has other countries seeking less expensive sources of milk to import.

"So it seems fairly simple. As overall production increases, overall demand needs to increase to help prevent distainingly low milk prices," Pool said. "So, I challenge you to this: after all we have learned today, drink another glass of milk, make your ice cream cone a double (not a single), and make that cheeseburger with triple cheese."


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