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THREE TOP OFFICIALS AT HOLDING CENTER TO RETIRE

Erie County Holding Center Superintendent John J. Dray and his two assistant superintendents will retire in the next two weeks, clearing the way for whoever is elected sheriff in November to appoint his own people.

But Dray said he hopes the next sheriff will consider permanently appointing the three interim jail administrators that outgoing Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins is expected to name after Dray and the others retire.

Capt. Robert Koch, a longtime holding center employee, is in line for promotion to interim superintendent, sources in the Sheriff's Department said Friday.

Higgins also is planning to select two assistant superintendents from among captains and lieutenants at the jail, according to those sources.

"I'd like to see the interim superintendent and assistant superintendents picked or be given some serious consideration because these people, like me, have spent their lives working here," said Dray, who started as a deputy at the jail in 1968.

Dray, 53, and Assistant Superintendent Willie Brown, 57, will retire Oct. 17, while Assistant Superintendent Ed Sobczyk, 49, will retire Oct. 14.

"I was invited to stay on earlier this summer by one of the candidates for sheriff, and my two assistants also were invited to stay on by different candidates," Dray said, explaining that all three chose instead to retire.

Running for sheriff are Democrat Rocco J. Diina, Republican Patrick Gallivan, and Right to Life candidate Charles E. Burkhardt. The winner takes office Jan. 1.

The position of superintendent pays $73,000 annually. The assistant superintendents receive about $55,000 a year.

But with overtime, many of the deputies in the seven-story jail at 40 Delaware Ave. earn more than the three top administrators.

"It's a budget problem, and it has to be addressed when the new sheriff comes in," Dray said, noting past efforts to correct the situation have failed. "I laugh when I hear talk of conducting a national search for this job. No one is going to come here. In other big cities, the job starts with pay at $80,000 plus."

The overtime results from understaffing and overcrowding at the jail, which was designed for 650 inmates but as of Friday contained 874, according to officials.

The jail employs 250 deputies and 100 civilian workers.

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