Placer Opts to Shift Inmate Food Service to Private Contractor

Auburn, CA (MPG  |  Source: Robert Miller, County of Placer
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After much deliberation and discussion, the Placer County Board of Supervisors today awarded a contract to an outside vendor to provide food service to county inmates and juvenile offenders. The vote was split, 3-2, with supervisors Uhler, Duran and Weygandt in support and supervisors Holmes and Montgomery opposed.

The five-year, $13.2 million contract with Aramark Correctional Services will take effect May 1. The service will provide meals at three county adult detention facilities that house about 750 inmates and to the juvenile detention facility that holds approximately 20 minors. In addition, the county provides meals to homebound seniors through an agreement with Seniors First.

Food service staff met with the county executive office and probation to discuss suggestions from correctional food service, identifying possible cost savings that they could implement to reduce costs. The potential savings were validated by probation staff. However, Aramark may also be able to implement those cost savings to lower their costs.

Potential savings over five years is estimated at $3 million. The switch to an outside vendor will affect 12 county positions. Aramark has assured the county that all county employees interested in working with the contractor will be interviewed. The county will augment the Aramark contract by $136,000 to bridge the salary gap until staff would be expected to reach comparable salary within the Aramark organization, and to ensure a smooth transition to the new contractor.

“The difficulty here is we are dealing with taxpayer dollars. We have to be very circumspect of every dollar that comes in and how we spend it.” said District 1 Supervisor Jack Duran. “It’s tough, but I think we have to look at this opportunity - as much as I don’t want to do that knowing that it’s going to impact families in Placer County, I think this is something we need to look at.”

“I see that what we are trying to do is save some taxpayer dollars, but the transition to Aramark has too many uncertainties to me,” said District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes, who voted against the contract. “County staff is very organized and has a great ability to provide these services with care. At this point I would just as soon stay with county staff.”

Staff who do not transition to Aramark will receive assistance from the county’s Human Resources department and Business Advantage Network, which will provide training and assist county employees in identifying other job opportunities.

In early 2016, the county issued a request for proposals to evaluate other service delivery options. Additionally, oversight of the correctional food service function will move to the county’s Department of Public Works and Facilities.

In July 2016, staff presented the board the initial proposal results that identified Aramark as top ranked. The board asked for additional information on employee layoff options and staff then returned in November. At that meeting, the board heard from affected employees and directed staff to develop an approach to ease the transition for county staff.