The Federal Correctional Institute in Berlin probably won’t get its first inmates for about a year but it has begun hiring, says Deborah Schult, the warden.
“Right now our major focus is staffing, staffing, staffing,” Schult said Friday night at the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner in Gorham.
The prison had been empty while awaiting funding from Congress, which came late last year.
“Last year we had 16 of us on site. Now we have hired 32,” she said.
“In the next month and a half those folks will be rolling in. Those are primarily our department heads, our experienced folks elsewhere in the Bureau (of Prisons) that are coming on and setting up our policies and procedures. Once they get in place the rest of the hiring will go quite a bit faster.”
She said another 32 people are “in some stage right now of the hiring process, either they have applied, they are awaiting an interview, they are pending a selection.”
She said about a dozen of those are from the area.
In all the prison will have about 341 employees and it is seen as being a major economic engine for the region. There are hopes it will provide several hundred local jobs.
Schult said the “activating budget” this year is about $7.5 million.
“That is just to keep the lights on, buy the equipment that we need and keep everything running,” she said.
When the prison is fully operating its operating budget and payroll will total about $38 million, she said.
Schult also praised the Northern New Hampshire Talent Team, a coalition of organizations offering free help to people interested in jobs at the prison. They include the White Mountains Community College , the Family Resource Center in Gorham and New Hampshire Works.