Knox County looks to privatize jail food program

Posted July 09, 2013, at 7:16 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Knox County may contract out the feeding of its inmates to a private company.

The commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday afternoon to allow County Administrator Andrew Hart to sign a contract with the food service company Aramark, based in Philadelphia, if he determines it will save the county money.

The county currently employs two full-time workers and two part-time employees to operate the food service for its inmates. Jail Administrator John Hinkley said he is still reviewing the proposal from Aramark but believes that the county could save $8,000 annually with the change.

Aramark already runs the food programs for the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, the York County Jail in Alfred and the Kennebec County Jail in Augusta, Hart said.

Commission Chairman Carol Maines expressed concerns about the employees who are with the county. Sheriff Donna Dennison said she was hopeful that the company would employ the county workers but Maines said even if they did, she questioned whether it would be at the same level of pay or benefits.

Hinkley said the county has to look at ways to reduce its jail expenses because the state has not increased the Knox County jail budget for the past few years.

“I’m concerned that if we don’t save money, we may end up laying off corrections officers,” Hinkley said.

Aramark has agreed to use the food raised by staff and inmates on the jail grounds, Hinkley said. Some food would be prepared on site and some brought in and warmed up, he said.

The county also needs to look at seeking bids for medical services, he said, to determine whether money could be saved there. No action was taken on that proposal at the Tuesday meeting.

Maines voted against authorizing the administrator to negotiate and sign a contract.

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