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Westmoreland detention facility boss now full time

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday promoted the interim director of the juvenile detention center to run the struggling facility on a full-time basis.

Commissioners, along with Controller Jeff Balzer, acting as the county's salary board, gave Rich Gordon a $5,000 raise and removed the interim label from his job title.

Gordon has run the center since January, when the county consolidated the juvenile detention center with a youth shelter that shares the same building in Hempfield.

The New Stanton resident has been a county employee since 2001. Gordon, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, will earn $50,288.

Commissioners said several candidates were interviewed for the position.

“He was the best person for the job,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

Gordon oversees operations at the 12-bed detention center and an eight-bed youth shelter for runaways and truants.

In 2010 a $4.5 million renovation of the building was completed that recast the old 24-bed center for troubled youths as a 12-bed detention center with a behavioral unit and new juvenile probation offices and conference rooms.

As part of that project, the eight-bed shelter was created to operate independently on the opposite side of the building.

County officials said declines in the number of juveniles sent to the detention center have made it difficult to keep the facility operating.

The detention center on average is about one-third vacant.

As a result, the county may lower the $276 per diem it charges other counties to house juvenile offenders at the Westmoreland center.

Commissioner Charles Anderson said the rate could be dropped to as low as $180 a day.

“We have some costs, and we need to have beds filled,” Anderson said.

Commissioners could act to lower the per diem issue later this year.

“It's inevitable,” Kopas said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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