By Bob Weaver

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will be hiring 350-400 jobs in Gilmer County for the 2002 opening of the new facility. Many local workers will be excluded because of a 37-year-old age cap, including most of the displaced employees of Spencer's closed Kellwood Manufacturing Company.

Well over 100 former Kellwood workers, several from Calhoun, are being retrained through a one year long computer science program directed toward filling hi-tech business and government positions, but few of them are under age 37. Calhoun resident Caroyln Cunningham, who is taking the course in Spencer, expresses concerns in a Letter to the Editor today regarding denial of employment for her class members.

Jim Fealy, Executive Director of the Gilmer County Economic Development Corporation, says the Bureau of Prisons has excluded itself from federal regulations regarding age discrimination. "All prison employees, no matter what capacity, become correctional officers and are required to take correctional officer training."

Jennifer Whitehair, who teaches the Kellwood re-training program at the Minnora Center, said 11 of her 14 Calhoun students were over 37 years old.

Fealy said the new prison would hire 40% of the employees from other sites and 60% from the "local area" which was defined as a 100 mile radius of the Gilmer facility. The prison has a budget of $25 million annually, with construction costs expected to reach $135 million.

"There are a few exceptions to the over 37 worker," said Fealy. If there is difficulty in filling specific jobs, the age requirement can be waived. He said the prison information can be found on www.bop.gov

Fealy said interested workers should still attend the employment seminar at Glenville on June 26.

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