Improved wireless access possible at Schuylkill County Prison

Jan. 5—POTTSVILLE — Employees of the Schuylkill County Prison could have improved wireless access if the county commissioners approve spending American Rescue Plan funds.

The county received $27,415,708 in ARP funds from the federal government.

Money from the rescue plan must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by 2026.

An agenda item at Wednesday's work session said the 42 additional wireless access points, switches and cables could be installed at the prison at a cost not to exceed $160,075.

Switches are boxes where cables from access points are plugged into the network.

Warden David J. Wapinsky said by phone the improvements will benefit the Wi-Fi.

Stan Nestor, head of Management Information Systems, said after the meeting there is "very limited" Wi-Fi at the prison.

Nestor said adequate Wi-Fi is important for various reasons. For example, guards use iPads to communicate throughout the prison complex, he said.

He said the upgrade to existing infrastructure has been requested for about three years and that the access is going to be "pretty much everywhere, including outdoors in the yard."

The system will also be password-protected, Nestor said.

Of the possible cost, he said, about a third is for cable work needed due to the construction of the old prison.

A cost breakdown was not provided.


At Tuesday's reorganization meeting, no votes were taken to change who is leading the commissioners. Barron L. "Boots" Hetherington will continue as chairman for 2023.

The board had its annual reorganization meeting, but because there was no recent election for commissioner, the roles will stay the same, according to Hetherington.

Hetherington will also continue to chair the prison board. County President Judge Jacqueline L. Russell will remain as vice chairman.

Halcovage criticism

In other business, Jeffrey J. Dunkel, a Palo Alto resident and frequent critic of the commissioners, asked about Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr.'s three missing devices.

"Again, I'm asking where these devices are, what he's hiding on them or where he put them. I'm sure they are probably in a dump by now if he was smart," he said of Halcovage.

Halcovage did not reply.

Listed as "not seen" on a fixed asset sheet for the commissioners office from the end of 2020 are iPads issued in 2012 and 2014 and a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet issued in 2014.

The county controller's office asks for fixed asset information for insurance purposes.

Halcovage has been sued in federal court by four female county employees alleging sexual harassment and sexual assault. He denies the allegations.

In preparing the lawsuit, a lawyer from the Derek Smith Law Group, Philadelphia, representing one of the four women, sent a letter to Schuylkill County.

The letter, dated May 21, 2020, asked Schuylkill County and Halcovage to preserve the devices and items associated with them. The letter referenced the dates from Feb. 1, 2014, through the date of the letter.

Contact the writer:; 570-628-6023