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Troup County approves jail food service contract with local business

On Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners approved Skillet Kitchen, which is under Kimble’s Food by Design, to provide food service to the Troup County Jail and Annex.

The county received five proposals, and while Skillet Kitchen was not the lowest bidder, it was the only local bidder, and its bid was half a cent per meal below what the county has been paying for food service at the jail and annex. The board of commissioners considered the proposals at length during its work session on Thursday, when Sheriff James Woodruff urged commissioners to go with a provider who has a strong emergency plan in place.

“All these other vendors are from other states,” Woodruff said. “They can’t get here in a matter of minutes if something goes wrong, and from time to time, something goes wrong with that kitchen. You can’t cook three meals a day for 500 inmates and something doesn’t break or something doesn’t go wrong. You’ve got to have hands on things. You’ve got to have people here that are looking after things.”

Woodruff said each of the potential food service providers were asked what they would do if the power went down at the jail and for whatever reason the generator did not function. Kellwell Food Management, out of Kentucky, responded that it would cook and transport food from its next closest jail in Barnesville, which is roughly an hour away. Summit, out of South Dakota, did not offer an emergency plan. Tiger Correction Services, out of Arkansas, responded that inmates would receive sack lunches and purchase snacks through the jail’s commissary vendor, which is Kimble’s. Trinity Services Group, out of Florida, responded that it would contact Atlanta area directors and feed inmates sack lunches until food could be delivered to the jail. Skillet Kitchen responded that it would prepare food in the Kimble’s kitchen, which is 5 minutes away from the jail. Kimble’s also has a kitchen at the Walmart Distribution Center in LaGrange.

The actual price of the services received some attention as well. Tiger Correctional Services, the lowest bidder, listed a bid of $576 to $625.95 as its price per meal for 600 inmates. Skillet Kitchen’s bid was for 600.9844 per meal. County Purchasing Director Diana Evans estimated that the county would save $3,400 over what the county has been paying by contracting with Skillet Kitchen. Because of the price range offered by the other bidders, it would be difficult to make a meaningful side by side comparison on total savings.

“When you break the numbers down, we’re not talking about a huge difference in what the two bids would be,” County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said. “We are not talking about a tremendous savings to the county with the new contract.”

The fact that all of the bids were based on an inmate population of around 600 could have impacted the actual cost through some of the vendors though. Woodruff said the jail has been able to keep the jail population close to 500 inmates recently thanks to coordination with the Department of Corrections, and he said that new bond requirements are expected to encourage that trend.

Commissioner Lewis Davis asked if the price per meal would be higher for a lower number of inmates. Evans said that the price would remain the same for Skillet Kitchen, but it would increase for other bidders.

Additionally, Woodruff said that he spoke to sheriffs about their experiences with different providers, and he said that while Skillet Kitchen has only serviced jails for a short time, it received good reviews compared to other providers.

“A lot of riots in jails and in prisons across the state… are from poor food quality,” Woodruff said. “A lot of people say, ‘Lock ‘em up and just feed them water and bread.’ Well, you know you can’t really do that anymore. You have to have this meal. This meal has to be nutritionally balanced. It has to be served at a certain temperature. You have to be able to provide these people with good quality food .”

Woodruff said that Kimble’s as a whole has provided good, reliable service to the county for years, while both the current provider and other bidders have lost accounts due to less than satisfactory service.

“Kimble’s, as I pointed out before, they are our commissary,” Woodruff said. “We’ve been doing business with them for over 20 years. They started at the Troup County [Correctional Institute]. The work camp was their first camp that Kimble Carter ever had when he started doing commissary. We’ve been happy with them for well over 20 years. We are happy with them doing our commissary at the jail. They’ve always gone the extra mile for us.”

Commissioner Ellis Cadenhead noted that Kimble’s is a Troup County taxpayer, so any growth it experiences would benefit the county. He also noted that Kimble’s donated $300,000 to the Pineland Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Home. Additionally, Cadenhead said that when he personally called jails in the state to see why they changed food service providers, they confirmed Woodruff’s statements regarding service quality.

The contract is expected to start within 90 days.

Other items covered during the meeting included:

  • The Troup County Board of Commissioners approved a request to change a part-time administrative assistant position in the planning and zoning office to that of a full-time planning and zoning technician. According to County Manager Eric Mosley, the position will be funded through additional revenue that the office has brought into the county budget.
  • The board of commissioners approved a budget amendment to reflect payments on the scoreboard at Callaway Stadium using money given as donations for that purpose. The amendment is budget neutral for the county. According to Mosley, there is still one sponsor spot available on the scoreboard.
  • The board of commissioners approved a contract for West Point elections, which will allow county election staff to preside over the qualifiers in West Point. The county will receive revenue from qualifying fees.
  • Commissioner Lewis Davis reminded everyone in attendance that the State of the County address will be on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Gray Hill Community Center. A variety of county representatives will speak at the event, and there will be an opportunity for citizens to ask questions and share concerns.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will meet again on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.