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North Country gets ready for federal prison

November 30, 2011
BERLIN Applicants who want to snag a lucrative job at the federal prison better sharpen their computer and salesmanship skills or better yet, learn the intricate computer process at one of the on-going public sessions.

An estimated 329 positions need to be filled to staff the Federal Correctional Institution and satellite camp. Most of them, 209 are new hires, while 109 are internally posted. The process will take a few months, but by January 2012, 22 people will be hired to help open the prison and oversee the initial minimum security camp.

"The first scoring is done electronically," said John Dyer, of the White Mountains Community College and a member of the Talent Team that has been established to maximize the prison's local economic impact, "a human will never see it."

It is vital, he said, to understand the process and articulate clearly in writing the applicant's relevant experience. A computer program will scan the applications and among other things search for words that indicate the applicant meets the specific requirements. A small percentage of the applications will be forwarded to the local warden for review and then a rigorous screening process.

The non-internal job postings range from 105 correctional officers, 20 case managers and secretaries, 17 facilities craftspeople,12 healthcare professionals, eight accountants, eight teachers and a scattering of other positions.

Several speakers at a Monday morning press conference outlined the enormous impact the prison will have on the local community. It is of having a multi-million dollar a year, 24-hour a day, 265 days a year operation and over 300 full-time, full-benefits, mostly college educated and under 37 year-old employees.

The age qualification will exclude most of the county's workforce, so most of the workforce will need to relocate to the area. This, a number of speakers said, is where the impact will be greatest. This type of influx of new people will change the local flavor and culture of the community. "You won't recognize Berlin in five years," said Mark Belanger, the manager of the local NH Works office. "Berlin is not going to be a French Canadian community anymore." It was noted that prison will attract a significant number of minority employees and the region will need to improve its relations with ethnically diverse cultures. Jim Michalik, of the Family Resource Center, said the area has a history of cultural diversity. "In the 1940s," he said, "Berlin was the most culturally diverse city in the state."

Sessions will be held throughout the region including tonight, Wednesday, November 30 at the Littleton Learning Center at 6 p.m. The next day one will be held at the Lancaster Elementary School starting at 6:30 p.m.. On Saturday, Dec. 3 at the White Mountain Community College and Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Bethlehem Library at 6 p.m.. These sessions are sponsored by White Mountains Community College, The Family Resource Center, the local NH Works, Employment office.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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