Is new jail food service too costly?

Published 12:48 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NATCHEZ — Whether plans to change the food provider for county inmates will save money or cost more money apparently is subject to debate.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said recent changes would lower food costs, But Adams County Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus argues the total costs will go up.

Food for county inmates was previously contracted to ADL Foods, but that contract was terminated earlier this year. Since then, two cooks have been hired at the jail and administrators have contracted with local venders for the food.

Email newsletter signup

The jail is allowed to spend up to $6 per day per prisoner per state statute.

Patten reported in June he was saving approximately $30,000 a year while also doing business with locals, which he said was a win-win.

Lazarus said at budget meeting earlier this month the problem with hiring staff is they are county employees and entitled to benefits. While Lazarus said he believed the sheriff could save money on food costs by buying in bulk, the savings are offset by the additional cost on the county.

“The actual cost for food in the jails went up more like $50,000 to $60,000 instead of the decrease he reports,” Lazarus said. “We can bill for food, but we can also let him handle it if we want. Right now we are letting him handle food costs.”

County Administrator Joe Murray said with his calculations it looks like costs will be up in the jail. But Murray said additionally that the sheriff has only had since March to work on keeping food costs down and it could end up balancing out by the end of the year with proper management.

Patten said Monday he felt like the costs would balance out in the end, but he had no further comment on it.

In November 2010, then Sheriff Chuck Mayfield switched from hiring his own kitchen staff to contracting out the service in an effort to save. The savings were expected to be in the neighborhood of $53,000, mostly due to cutting employee costs such as insurance and retirement benefits.