CHARLESTON, Maine — The change in mission at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston will necessitate the reduction of at least 35 positions, though the leader of the labor union that represents the workers fears more employees could be affected.
Rod Hiltz, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association, said Thursday afternoon that officials from the Department of Corrections were at the youth prison for most of Thursday, meeting with employees and administrators.
Hiltz said information from the department indicate that 34.5 positions will be cut “over the next couple of weeks.” To date, no layoff notices have been issued, he said.
“We’ll have to see how many layoff letters they give people because even though the actual positions being cut are 34.5, the actual people being cut could be way greater than that,” said Hiltz, who said the union fears that transitioning Mountain View from a youth to an adult facility will require a different mix of staffing.
Phone calls to the Department of Corrections seeking comment were not answered Thursday.
Last week, the Department of Corrections moved nine juvenile inmates from Mountain View to Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, effectively ending the Charleston facility’s 14-year run as a youth prison. As a youth prison, Mountain View included a full-fledged school, which will no longer be needed now that the state has consolidated its juvenile inmate population in Cumberland County.
Maine Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said the curtailment of youth operations at Mountain View resulted from two primary reasons. First, the number of youths at the 140-bed facility has been decreasing for years to the point that, recently, fewer than 10 inmates were housed at the facility. Second, the department needs a facility to house inmates who need complex medical care.
Fitzpatrick has said that he was working with staff and administrators to minimize the transition’s effect on employees. Hiltz said one thing communicated by the department was that they would try to accommodate employees who are near retirement age.
Hiltz said Thursday that his chief concern is the affected employees and their families.
“It’s just going to be devastating for so many people,” said Hiltz. “There are a lot of people who have been displaced who have been dedicated state employees for a long time.”