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Commissioners Break Ground for New Northumberland County Prison

COAL TOWNSHIP -- A former facility for juvenile offenders will be the site of a new prison in Northumberland County.

It's been more than two years since fire ruined the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury.

Officials broke ground Friday morning for the new county prison.

The place used to house juvenile offenders. Commissioners say it only needs renovations and additions to turn it into the new Northumberland County Prison.

Northumberland County officials posed with hard hats and shovels in front of the former Northwestern Academy in Coal Township. Commissioners call the groundbreaking much more than a photo op.

Since the prison in Sunbury was ruined by fire more than two years ago, inmates have been housed in other counties.

Everyone here is looking forward to moving forward and once again having a prison in Northumberland County.

"We were stuck in a hardship from day one, from the day the jail burned and this is now the beginning of getting ourselves back on track," Northumberland County Sheriff Robert Wolfe said.

Commissioners had planned to build a new prison in Sunbury at the former Celotex site, but they later scrapped that plan and bought the former Northwestern Academy for $6.5 million.

"Which gave us a lot of money available to us to do the renovations we need to do and still undercut the budget for the old project by about $10 million, if not more," said Northumberland County Commissioner Rick Shoch.

"They need something like this. Instead of having everybody separated in different counties, this is one whole big facility that will be wonderful," said Coal Township resident Puanani Griffiths.

This prison is farther away from the courthouse than the old facility was, but officials tell Newswatch 16 they don't think transporting prisoners will be an issue.

"We'll do it with additional manpower, additional vehicles, and we'll make sure it happens," said Wolfe.

Once finished, this will be a nearly 300-bed facility with more than a dozen buildings on 165 acres.

Construction will start as soon as possible and the new prison is scheduled to open in June of 2018.

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