CHARLESTON, Maine — No pink slips have been issued yet at Mountain View Youth Development Center, but Superintendent Jeff Morin said Friday he has met with employees whose jobs are expected to be eliminated as the center is transformed into an adult corrections facility.
“There is fear, there is anxiety — all the things that can be expected,” Morin said of Mountain View’s staff. “But, they are professionals. With all the rumors going around, I think finally seeing the draft plan helps because people can really stop guessing. At least now, they’ve got some secure numbers they can start to work with to see what their options are.
“I’ve met with staff that most likely will be impacted and told them I’m willing to make phone calls, write letters of reference, whatever it takes to help them land on their feet,” he said.
The change in the facility’s mission announced earlier this week means approximately 35 positions will be cut at the former youth prison, officials said.
“There are 146 positions there and it would reduce by 34.5 to 111.5,” Rod Hiltz, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association, said Friday.
The cuts are not as harsh as they may appear, according to Morin.
“There are some people who are going to retire. There are some people who came here to work with kids and may want to move to something different,” Morin said. “For those impacted, we do have significant vacancies at other facilities in the department, and those will be made available. As people retire [at Mountain View], [those who took other jobs] would be able to return … if they wanted.”
Also, “because we’re going to an adult model, we’ll have a few new positions to fill,” the superintendent said.
For example, the facility will soon hire an inner security team to deal with prison contraband and prevent assaults, among other jobs, the superintendent said.
“We have some positions in the community that are opening up [and] impacted staff will get a priority look,” Morin said.
In addition, the facility had four vacancies that will not be not filled, reducing the total layoffs to around 30. And if a person who is on the chopping block applies for and is hired for one of the new positions, that would again reduce the overall layoffs, Morin said.
Whether there will be more job cuts in the future is a question Morin said he could not answer at this point in the prison transformation.
“That is going to be a moving target,” the superintendent said. “That is the number based on our current matrix.”
In preparation for the facility’s mission change, last April Mountain View expanded its programming and services by adding a Young Adult Male Offenders program, for those aged 18 to 25, who “could greatly benefit from the continued educational, therapeutic and substance abuse services that facility staff were already providing to juveniles,” the facility’s website states.
The Department of Corrections also is planning to transfer inmates who have disabilities, are sex offenders or who have other service needs to Mountain View, officials have said.
The changes will make better use of the facility, which averaged 27 juvenile inmates daily in 2015, a major drop from the average of 71 in 2009, according to data provided by Deputy Corrections Commissioner Jody Breton
The name of the facility also will eventually change, she said.
“We are going to let the facility [leaders] determine the new name,” Breton said in an email. “I will be submitting the new name to the Legislature in the next session, as it is in statute.”
The labor union is ready to fight for each and every member who is let go, Hiltz said.
“Once we get the official letters of layoff, we demand, I should say, we request impact bargaining,” he said. “The union will strive, with everyone, to do whatever we can do” to lessen the impact.
That means fighting for severance, asking for transfers, looking into early retirement for some and other options, Hiltz said.
A Maine Department of Labor organized Rapid Response Team will be dispatched to the facility, which shares resources and a campus with the medium-security Charleston Correctional Facility, next week to answer employee questions about health care coverage, insurance, unemployment, retirement and other subjects.
“I’ve been contacted by a community residential facility. They have openings to work with kids in a residential setting,” Morin said. “They’ll be there to talk to those who may have an interest.”
Morin said the facility is based in the Bangor area, but gave no other details.
The pink slips may be issued as early as next week, the superintendent said.
“We don’t have a timeline,” Morin said. “The HR team has to go through and see who stands where, the different positions and how does that impact the union contract. Those who are impacted will get a letter that will include what their options are. We also have to post these new positions, recruit and hire.”
“The department is doing whatever it can to help people land on their feet,” Morin said.