Cambria commissioners approve new air filtration system for prison, talk insurance policy

Apr. 26—EBENSBURG, Pa. — The Cambria County Prison is getting a new air filtration system that's 99.9% effective at eliminating a litany of pathogens, including COVID-19, E. coli and MRSA.

The Cambria County commissioners approved an agreement Thursday for Germ Solutions USA to install the new system for $1,016,108, which will be covered by a Pennsylvania Commissioner on Crime and Delinquency grant.

"Based off the test results they showed us and the data we went over with them, it seems really promising," Warden Christian Smith said.

Germ Solutions President David Rettig said the county facility will get an Aerus system with ActivePure technology that is Underwriters Laboratory 2998 approved to emit zero ozone while operating.

The filtration is 99.9% affective for air and surface pathogens that are easily transmittable, including viruses, bacteria and mold spores.

It'll run 24 hours per day and monitor the air quality while operating, Rettig said.

Smith said Aerus, which will be installed in the HVAC system, will make a healthier environment for the staff and inmates.

He noted that throughout the past four years, there's been significant cases of COVID-19 in the prison because of the close proximity of the environment, and even at this time the jail deals with some lingering cases of the novel coronavirus.

Smith said based on what he's been shown by Germ Solutions, he thinks with the new filtration equipment, it will cut down on illnesses and save the prison money in medical costs and sick leave.

"It's a really, really helpful level of protection," Rettig said.

In addition to being allocated the PCCD funding for the system, the county was also one of three in the state awarded funding for pathogen testing for the next 12 months.

"I believe this will be a step in the right direction," President Commissioner Scott Hunt said.

He also addressed the battles with COVID-19 throughout the past few years and how the illness continues to impact operations.

Another purchase they approved was $341,500 for a 2023 Peterbilt 520 truck for the Cambria County Solid Waste Authority.

Kris Howdyshell, executive director of the authority, said this will replace one of the two collection vehicles on the road every day — the initial fleet was purchased in 2015.

He thanked the commissioners for their support because this truck will help the authority continue to collect the roughly 1,500 tons of materials Cambria County residents recycle every year.

Although the commissioners approved the purchase, the solid waste authority will cover the payments for the new Peterbilt.

Other business approved at the meeting dealt with the county's insurance policy with The Pennsylvania Counties Risk Pool.

The board voted in a 2-1 action to have Arthur J. Gallagher and Co., which has an office in Richland Township, become the new broker for the established policy in the amount of $15,000 annually from May to Dec. 31, 2027.

Commissioner Thomas Chernisky voted against the motion and afterward said he had concerns with the move, adding Ebesnburg Insurance Agency, the former broker of record, earned that business through a request for proposal in 2016 and has been a good partner since.

He also took issue with Gallagher's previous work with the county — from 2012 to 2016 — stating the company's service was more costly than Ebensburg's.

Hunt said this switch will not lead to additional costs for the county, describing it as net neutral — Gallagher is honoring the quote from Ebensburg — and added there was no need for an RFP because it's a professional contract, which means the county can pick the company they want to do business with.

Commissioner Keith Rager said due diligence was done on this matter and he's confident in the path forward.