Mich. County Renews Prison Contracts at Higher Cost
(02/05/2011)

LAKE LEELANAU, Mich. — Feeding inmates at the Leelanau County Jail is about to get more expensive.

The per-meal cost will increase by 63 percent because the number of inmates is much lower than expected.

The higher costs come at a time when the county is looking for ways to slash its budget after voters rejected a tax increase last year to fund emergency services in the county.

The county board renewed a three-year contract with Canteen Food Services and a five-year contract with Advanced Correctional Healthcare. Jail administrator Lt. Todd Roush made the recommendation to the board to renew the contracts.

The $85,410 per year contract with Canteen Food Services increased from $60,000 per year because the number of inmates in the jail is lower than the number that was expected when the jail first contracted with Canteen in 2007, said Roush.

Under the 2007 contract, which provides each inmate with two hot meals and one cold meal per day, a meal cost $2.14 with the expectation that the jail population would range between 40 to 70 inmates. But the actual number of inmates has consistently ranged between 23 and 25, causing Canteen to lose money. The per-meal cost under the new $80,000 contract will be $3.50.

The new contract will allow for a reduction in per-meal costs if the inmate population increases.

“If the population increases, the price goes down,” Roush explained at the board’s executive committee meeting on Jan. 11. “The higher price for 23-25 inmates given to commissioners is the worst case, the most we’d pay,” he said.

Roush said that Canteen was the lowest bidder on the contract and the only local bidder and added that it would cost more for the county to hire its own cook and purchase its own food because Canteen employs cooks and buys food to prepare meals for several jails.

The board voted 7-0 at its executive committee meeting, and 7-0 at its regular monthly meeting Jan. 18 to approve the contract renewal with Canteen.

The board also voted 7-0 on a contract renewal with Advanced Correctional Healthcare to provide medical services for inmates at the Leelanau County Jail. The first year of the contract will cost the county $30,583, with yearly increases not to exceed 3 percent. Only $27,500 was budgeted for inmate healthcare last year.

Roush explained that the four hours per-week of nursing services built into the previous contract were insufficient to service inmate medical needs, and that the county had to pay an additional $2,200 for nursing services in 2010. The new contract increases the regular number of nurse work hours from four hours to six hours per week.

The county board also voted 7-0 to endorse a grant application prepared by the commander of the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol, Deputy Charles Belanger. Belanger is applying for a $22,500 state grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to buy a new patrol boat.

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