Franklin County mulls new food vendor for jail

TUPPER LAKE – Franklin County legislators are looking to cut costs wherever they can, and that could mean no coffee on the menu at the Franklin County Jail.

During last Tuesday’s board meeting, county Manager Tom Leitz proposed switching to a single food vendor for the county jail, a move he said could save the county $30,000 to $40,000 annually.

Currently, the county puts more than 450 food items out for bid quarterly.

If the new vendor is approved, the county would instead pay a per-meal rate from one vendor. Leitz said that would make it easier to track food costs and possibly lead to more savings down the road.

It would also allow jail administrators to keep track of meal cost per inmate versus cost per staff member, since meals are free for staff.

“It gives us more accountability since we’re no longer estimating what we need to buy,” Leitz said to the board on Tuesday. “In the morning, we’ll no longer be worrying about estimating how much ground beef we need to defrost for dinner. Instead, we’ll do a head count and make the number of meals according to the head count. There’ll be less waste.”

About six months ago, the county put out a request for interest. Two companies, Aramark and Trinity Services Group, responded, but Trinity was the only one to put in a bid for a three-year contract.

“Aramark did not submit because they said we’re too small and we don’t have other clients here, but they just received a contract with the Malone school district,” Leitz said. “Three years from now I think we can rebuild this and at least have two responses.”

If the board approves the single-vendor plan at its next meeting on Thursday, July 18, the prison’s kitchen staff would stay intact, but some of their duties could change.

Inmates would have to give some things up, though. Instead of three servings of milk a day per inmate, each inmate would only get one serving, and coffee would be eliminated from the menu.

“It would mean different meal options with different, for lack of a better word, luxury,” Leitz said. “The firm (Trinity Services Group) has a registered dietician, so they ensure that the meal is according to state nutritional standards. You get all your vitamins and minerals; you get your calcium according to what you need. We’re comfortable with that.”

Some board members questioned whether taking coffee away from inmates would cause problems, but Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill said he’s comfortable with it.

“We’re not the only jail to do this; Essex County removed caffeine years ago,” Mulverhill said. “There will certainly be an adjustment time, and there’s going to be some grumbling among the inmate population, but we’ll deal with that as it comes.”

The Essex County Jail has a no-caffeine policy, but Franklin County wouldn’t go there.

“We’re not eliminating caffeine; we’re just eliminating coffee from the menu,” Mulverhill said. “I would say if caffeinated coffee is available through our commissary vendor, then we’ll allow that.”

Shaun Kittle can reached at 891-2600 ext. 25 or