County looks at contracting out services to improve jail’s bottom lineThe Stutsman County Commission heard an idea that could save an estimated $125,000 from the Stutsman County Correctional Center’s budget at its meeting Wednesday. The jail is looking at contracting with a food service vendor that would prepare all the meals for the facility. Currently the job is done by three county employees.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
The Stutsman County Commission heard an idea that could save an estimated $125,000 from the Stutsman County Correctional Center’s budget at its meeting Wednesday.
The jail is looking at contracting with a food service vendor that would prepare all the meals for the facility. Currently the job is done by three county employees.
“The biggest downside of this is it’s going to affect staffing,” said Casey Bradley, Stutsman County chief operating officer. “We’re looking at three staff members that will be affected — to what extent we don’t know.”
Jail Administrator Tracey Trapp said one of the three companies interested in the contract already contacted him about hiring the three employees.
“They’re going to need somebody to do it, so it makes sense they’d want the people back there now,” said Chairman Mark Klose.
All meals would be prepared at the jail. The county would just be responsible for maintenance, cleaning and storage.
The savings would offset the jail’s $126,000 in deficit spending for the year.
The cost of an average inmate’s meal if prepared by county staff is expected to rise to $4.51 in 2012. One interested company gave a rough estimate of $2.63 per meal, Bradley said.
He said savings could surpass $125,000.
“There’s a very good opportunity for substantial savings for this,” Bradley said.
The winning bidder is expected to be announced in early February.
In another move to save money at the jail, the commission contracted with TurnKey Corrections to handle commissary work.
Instead of using cash while incarcerated, inmates will be given cards with PIN numbers that function like debit cards. The inmates’ families can then go online and put money on their accounts.
TurnKey will also use software to conduct all visits electronically through video both for visitors at the jail or through the Internet. It will charge visitors for the Internet service.
This will greatly reduce the amount of contraband coming into the jail, said Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser.
“We were so impressed with their proposal that we actually implemented it before we opened our new facility,” Bradley said of the jail in Houston County in southeast Minnesota, where he previously worked. “It’s going to alleviate a lot of pressures.”
The first three months with TurnKey will pay off the installation costs of terminals for the cards. After that, the jail will receive 17 percent of proceeds from the commissary program and 30 percent of commissions from online visits.
Aside from the terminals, the county has to provide data lines for the equipment.
“This will allow for more revenue generation,” Bradley said after the meeting.
The commission also approved a $4,095 grant as part of a 7 percent match for the narrowing of the bandwidth used by public radios.
The FCC mandated that all public service radios need to narrow the radio spectrum over which they broadcast, said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager.
He compared to having a four-lane highway and reducing it to two lanes.
“If we don’t do this we’ll lose our radio licenses, the FCC will take them away from us,” Bergquist said. “It’s not like we have a choice.”
The total cost to narrow the bandwidth for the county’s 450 radios is $58,500.
Finally the commission raised of the pay grade for two dispatchers at the Law Enforcement Center.
The Jamestown Police Department will no longer supervise the dispatch center and the raise in the pay grade allows two dispatchers to serve as supervisors.
The total cost to the county is $737 per year.
The police department will assist the dispatchers if they are overwhelmed, Bergquist said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org