News

York County prison warden, emergency services director to retire

Written by Teresa Boeckel/York Daily Record | Dec 19, 2016 11:25 AM
eric_bistline.jpg

Eric Bistline, executive director of the Department of Emergency Services, describes the amount of training dispatchers received to interpret text messages during a press conference at the York County 911 Center in Springettsbury Township Tuesday October 6, 2015 to announce the addition of two new features. The ability to receive text messages (from the three major carriers) and Smart911 which allows people to provide advance information to emergency dispatchers Paul Kuehnel - York Daily Record/ Sunday News (Photo: Paul Kuehnel)

(York) -- Three longtime York County administrators are retiring: York County Prison Warden Mary Sabol; Eric Bistline, executive director of the York County Department of Emergency Services; and Marlin Peck, administrator for the Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Sabol and Bistline will be retiring in January. Peck retired Dec. 15.

Sabol's retirement, however, will be brief. She's taking another job as the director of corrections in Lehigh County, where she will oversee adult and juvenile corrections. She starts there Jan. 23.

Bistline will be heading to a new home in Arizona to enjoy a warmer climate. He also will be close to one of his sons who lives in that area.

Mary Sabol

Sabol, who has been with the county for nearly 18 years, pointed to numerous accomplishments during her career. The prison set up programs to help prisoners with re-entry into society, including helping them to learn a trade in culinary arts and heating, ventilating and air conditioning. She said the prison helped the state Department of Corrections with its overpopulation by housing parole violators.

And she increased the county's revenue with a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a news release.

There were high-profile problems, as well.

On Thanksgiving Eve in 2012, 49 female inmates were rushed to the hospital because of a carbon monoxide leak. Sabol said many lives were saved that night by the quick action of the staff.

An internal investigation showed the county and its employees were not responsible for the exposure, the county's acting solicitor said at the time.

The carbon monoxide came "from the exhaust system of two natural gas fired water heaters into areas occupied by York County Prison inmates," Thomas "Chip" Brown, president of McClure Company, said at the time. The company was doing work at the prison.

The prison also struggled with suicides. Several inmates have taken their lives over the years. Michael Lowry hung himself in a staff bathroom in 2009. Tiombe Carlos, an ICE detainee, took her own life in 2013. Two women -- Megan Fritz and Mary Knight -- committed suicide within a four-day period in 2014.

The most recent was Veronique Henry, who was charged in connection with a double homicide in Fawn Township. She was found dead on Sept. 15 in her prison cell.

Sabol said the prison deals with roughly 15 to 20 attempts a month, ranging from inmates saying they are going to hurt themselves to those who attempt to take their life. She believes staff have saved a lot of lives.

"One suicide is too many," Sabol said in an interview Friday.

It also was during Sabol's tenure that two prison guards -- Daniel Graff and David Whitcomb -- were convicted for coercing inmates into fighting and participating in a series of demeaning stunts inmates called the "Retard Olympics" and a "Fight Club." A third corrections officer was acquitted of all charges in the case.

York County paid $60,000 to settle a lawsuit from a former inmate who alleged that corrections officers, Sabol and the prison board either participated in or knew of what was going on.

Eric Bistline

The former Fairview Township Police chief, who became the director of the York County Department of Emergency Services in 2004, oversaw improvements to the 911 communications system, the building of a new emergency operations center as well as other upgrades during his tenure.

It was part of an overall $68 million overhaul to the county's emergency management operation.

Problems arose in 2008 when emergency responders started switching over to the new $36 million radio communication system. They reported garbled and lost transmissions.

Three police unions filed a lawsuit, seeking to have the county stop using the system. York County Judge Richard Renn ruled in 2010 that the unions had valid complaints. However, the state law only requires counties to create and maintain emergency communication systems. How to operate it "is subject to (the county's) broad discretion," Renn wrote.

Bistline said during an interview Friday that the problem was related to software in the system and by the end user. He traveled to Lynchburg, Va. to stress the seriousness of the problem to the company, then known as M/A-COM.

The company sent no less than two dozen experts to fix the problem.

The county later had to switch from the T-Band spectrum because of a new federal law in 2012.

Today, the county has a system that is "outstanding," he said.

With nearly 2 million radio transmissions monthly, only a couple dozen problems are reported, he said.

The new York County 911 center in Springettsbury Township and a backup facility in West Manchester Township also were built.

Bistline said officials from other states and even other countries have come to see the facility.

In 2007, the county also acquired a mobile communications unit with the latest technology, and the $250,000 cost was mostly paid for with donations, he said. Very little tax money was used.

"I could not do what I did without the dedicated staff," he said. "I'm very proud of our accomplishments."

Marlin Peck

Peck was appointed as the administrator of the county nursing home in 2003. Before he took over, the home had been run by four different people and a private company.

At the time of his appointment, Peck had more than 25 years of experience in financial and health care management.

Peck could not be reached for comment.


This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

Published in News, York

Tagged under , , , , , , ,

back to top

Give Now

Estate Planning

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »