ActivePaper Archive Id=279 : - Reading Eagle, 8/16/2000

Berks board to vote on $3.7 million deal to house immigrants

• On _Thursday, the _county commissioners plan to cast ballots on a provision that guarantees payment for providing shelter for families under federal supervision.

By Mary E. Young


Immigrant families under supervision of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service soon may _find a home at the Berks County Youth Center.

Under a contract the county commissioners plan to vote on Thursday, the county would receive $168 per person per day, with payment for 60 people - or nearly $3.7 million - guaranteed annually.

The center currently houses immigrant youths who have committed crimes and immigrant youths in need of temporary shelter at the rate of $143 per day per youth.

John F. McCormack_, youth center superintendent_, said the guaranteed payment would ensure that the county would recover all the costs of operating the program. The families would be housed in unused areas of Berks Heim, near the youth center on County Welfare Road in Bern Township. McCormack said remodeling of the areas must be completed, staff must be hired and furniture must be ordered before the program could begin. Because of its location at Berks Heim, the family program would not worsen overcrowding at the youth center, officials said. Plans to expand the center are being prepared. The expansion is expected to cost at least $4.25 million. i In 1999, the county received $2.1 million from the federal government for housing juveniles for the INS. County Commissioners Timothy A. Reiver and Judith L. Schwank did not comment on the INS contract during a workshop Tuesday, but afterward Reiver said the commissioners plan to move ahead. However, the commissioners will be discussing the continued housing of illegal alien criminals at Berks County Prison for the INS because the prison is overcrowded, Reiver said. 'Commissioner Mark C. Scott is on vacation. In other business at the workshop, the commissioners agreed to vote Thursday on a request by Jerry G. Fudeman, Berks Heim administrator, to raise the per day rate for people paying for their own care to $160 from $145. Fudeman said the rate would be competitive with private nursing homes. Residents typically pay their own way for a short time until they run out of money, then seek government medical assistance, Fudeman said. The commissioners - meeting as the salary board with Controller Judith Kraines and District Attorney Mark C. Baldwin - approved the hiring of an additional detective to hunt down people who are delinquent in paying child support. Baldwin said the number of people who fail to pay child support has nearly doubled from 355 in the first six months of 1999 to 617 for the same period this year. The annual salary will be $27,540 to $36,720.