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May 17, 2014

County prison plays key role in election

EBENSBURG — An election, be it the primary in May or the general in November, is an expensive proposition for county government, even if a quarter or less of the registered voters show up at the polls.

With this constantly recurring expense in mind, county officials a few years ago set about looking for ways to minimize the cost.

“We took a hard look at everything we could to save money,” President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said.

With court approval, in 2013 the commissioners reduced the number of polling places by nearly three dozen for an annual savings estimated at $80,000, a move that came on the heels of a look at the paper costs of an election.

In a change initiated by former county elections director Fred Smith and completed by Shirley Crowl, his successor, printing needed for the elections outside of the ballots is handled by the county print shop.

The shop, under the management of Missy Kiel, is housed in the Cambria County Prison and has for some time been turning out volumes of signs, posters and forms to run the 500-inmate facility.

But Kiel, whose shop is not part of the corrections staff, now is printing volumes of posters and instructions that go into the boxes at each polling place.

“She does a wonderful job of getting together enough of everything we need,” Crowl said.

One of those information sheets that had to be printed and sent to every polling place was a notice that Bob Guzzardi, a Republican candidate for governor, is not really a candidate.

His name was removed from the ballot, but the decision came too late for Cambria County to make the changes, Crowl said.

“We looked at how much of this we can print and the savings is $20,000 a year, and it sometimes bumps up to $30,000,” Lengenfelder said.

Warden John Prebish said the election printing being done at the prison is timed so that it does not interfere with what is needed by the facility and other county offices.

“We don’t have a big super print shop. It’s a small, efficient operation,” he said.

Also coming out of the prison is the manpower to pack the boxes with the printed information that go out to each of the precincts.

That is done by inmates, Crowl said of the chore completed last week. These same inmates load the boxes into trucks, which are then delivered to the judges of election for each precinct.

“We can just go down and get the boxes,” she said. “They’ve done an amazing job for us.”

Meanwhile, Crowl and the commissioners continue to look for savings. Now being reviewed is the cost of programming the discs that go into the voting machines, Lengenfelder said.

Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

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