Weekday top 5 auburn corrections officers picket, jordan gas station opens, auburn nurse vigil local news auburnpub.com gas in back and stomach

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On Tuesday afternoon, the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association held an information picket at the maximum-security prison in Auburn. According to NYSCOPA’s communications director, James Miller, the goal was to show support and solidarity for better staffing, safer working conditions and the reduction of inmate discipline sanctions.

Dozens of ACF employees were joined by civilian staff outside the facility Tuesday, wearing white T-shirts that read "Auburn In Unity" and holding signs that said "Mismanagement threatens public safety" and "No discipline = no deterrent = no control."

"It’s actually gotten worse," Miano said. "We want the public to know that the inmates we’re dealing with on a daily basis — whether you’re a teacher, a nurse, a maintenance man or a corrections officer — it’s getting more and more dangerous every day."

Since NYSCOPBA’s last picket in March, Miano said there have been more than 250 incidents at the prison; that includes 25 assaults on staff, 57 assaults on inmates, 11 visitor arrests, 60 uses of force and 111 incidents involving drugs and weapons.

The union made the same arguments at Tuesday’s picket, claiming that the increase in violence and contraband is due to a decrease in discipline. Miano said the officers are specifically asking for additional staffing and technology at ACF, including full-body scanners.

In response, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision issued a statement, comparing statistics from January to August of 2015 to the same time frame in 2017. According to DOCCS’ Director of Public Information Thomas Mailey, the number of inmate on staff assaults has dropped 52 percent (from 48 in 2015 to 25 in 2017) while the number of use of force incidents decreased 13 percent (from 104 in 2015 to 90 in 2017).

"The number of assaults on Auburn facility staff, use of force incidents and staff injuries during uses of force have all decreased dramatically over the past two years," Mailey said. "These declines can be attributed to the hard working staff at Auburn, as well as key investments in additional security staffing, technology and training."

"Millions of dollars have been invested in technology like Cellsense — a portable contraband detector — heartbeat detectors and thermos-imaging devices," Mailey said. "Appropriate staffing levels are continuously reviewed. … (We maintain) an inmate to correction officer ratio of approximately three to one, among the lowest ratios in the nation."

The convenience store and gas station on Route 31 had closed its doors in October 2016. A native of the Jordan area, Town passed the empty lot every morning on his way to Baldwinsville, where he owns a mechanical contracting company. And although he knew little about retail, he said he knew he had to reopen the store.

For the next few months, Town and Komuda worked on renovating the space, repaving the parking lot and staining the building. They added new windows and flooring and painted the interior, too, changing the color scheme and layout of the store.

"We have been very busy," he said. "It was tough to project what might happen. We actually missed it a couple times on fuel and got low pretty quick. … And the food was a pleasant surprise — how much traffic the food has brought into the store."

Along with a new coffee bar, soft-serve ice cream and the traditional grab-and-go grub like market sandwiches and pizza, Mitchell said he tries to offer at least two specials a day. Some of his most popular meals have been a shrimp avocado salad and several different burgers.

"The nurses are burning out," said Kelly Ludeman, a registered nurse with ACH for 33 years. "The new nurses aren’t staying. They’re leaving. They’re going to Syracuse where they can have five patients on their roll, or four patients, or six patients at most, where the staffing ratios are better."

Currently, she said, the hospital is utilizing a staffing grid that was created during contract negotiations about a decade ago. Since then, nursing has transformed, she said. Paperwork has turned electronic, positions have been cut and a larger workload falls into the laps of the bedside nurse.

She said the staffing grid stipulated the minimum number of nurses per patients on the floor, and if those numbers fell, the nurses would receive a premium pay bonus. The hospital, Ludeman continued, told staff that would never happen, but that has not been the case.

Ken Spurgeon, vice chair of the union and a registered nurse for ACH, said more than 50 percent of the time, nurses are short-staffed. He said he and others are not looking to divide the community, but said people need to be aware that the business model has changed.

With the meeting room too small to accommodate all of the supporters, applause could be heard in the hall after the nurses spoke. Following their statements at the meeting, union members and others held a candlelight vigil outside of the building.

"At the heart of all we do at Auburn Community Hospital, is ensuring a safe and positive patient experience," he wrote. "Auburn Community Hospital employees and physicians remain committed to the safety and well-being of the patients we are privileged to serve. We will never risk patient safety or quality of care."