June 26, 2014OSSIPEE — County officials recently discussed the potential of having inmates from the House of Corrections assist with laundry and kitchen tasks at the Mountain View Community nursing home.
The topic arose at the Carroll County Commissioner's meeting on June 18, when Mountain View Community Administrator Howard Chandler briefed Commissioners David Sorensen, David Babson, and Asha Kenney on the status of the impending contract with General Linen set to expire in December. The old nursing home building still has the laundry room, thus with the contract set to expire, and laundry services costing a bundle - $1,000 a week – Chandler suggested the county consider doing its own laundry.
"I don't think we want to toss out the option of self-operation; all plans for the future have included keeping the existing laundry [facility]," said Chandler, adding that Carroll County's Mountain View Community nursing home was the exception to the rule in contracting out its own laundry as most homes have in-house laundry facilities.
"I think its time for us to take a serious look at bringing it in-house," he said. Officials would still need to review water treatment capacity and the impact on the home's leach field, as well as labor and related costs, he added.
"The good news is the laundry is in the other building. It makes use of labor from the House of Corrections a much simpler process because the y won't be in the same space as the nursing home," said Chandler.
Chandler said he would explore costs associated with brining the laundry service in-hose, adding that pursuing the idea will take collaboration with House of Corrections Superintendent Jason Johnson. Johnson was not in attendance at the June 18 meeting.
In response to Commissioner Sorensen's query whether space was an obstacle, Chandler said there was ample space at the old laundry, but modifications to water and gas lines may be required.
"We wanted to toss it out there. If it's a direction you don't want pursued, it's better to know now before we get halfway down the road and discover its a road we don't want to be on," he said.
Commissioner Babson asked if the costs affiliated with laundry services have been studied. He visited the county home in Grafton and said that facility has $70,000 or $80,000 machines.
"When all is said and done, have we really done a cost study? We'd have to buy the linen, replace it when it goes bad, pay bills for heating, ventilation, plumbing, electricians and electrical work. There has got to be quite a bit of cost involved," said Babson.
Chandler agreed the costs need to be explored and established, but possibly well worth the study.
With laundry costs at more than $1,000 a week, he said, " I have to believe there's a serious opportunity [for savings] but I need to prove to you what the costs would be," he said.
Babson said the laundry facility could serve the House of Correction's needs as well.
In a related topic, Commissioner Babson asked Chandler if any progress had been made with having inmates work in the nursing home kitchen. Chandler said CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson was open to the idea. Inmates could assist with landscaping projects as well, with the need for the garden at the former nursing home to be moved and replanted at the new home.
"If we could use jail labor, that would be a nice project," Chandler said. He added that while staffing levels are adequate, the nursing home's kitchen is short-staffed whenever anyone calls in sick.
Commissioner Sorensen talked about a group called the "Originals" in Conway whose chefs provide kitchen training. Perhaps inmates could be trained either in the kitchen at the jail or at the nursing home, training that may benefit offenders once they are released.
Chandler said the idea of creating an on-campus, almost a parole program, a "managed middle-ground," may be a sound practice that reduces recidivism, benefits the nursing home, and contains costs while providing training to offenders.
Commissioner Babson said discussing correctional philosophy is not enough.
"Until we get the heads of both facilities working together, it won't work," said Babson.
Weighing in on the proposal, Carroll County Farm Manager Will Dewitt said the jail has a limited amount of sentenced inmates who are allowed to work.
"If you start taking those away from me to do other things, there's a cause and effect. They have sentenced inmates and non-sentenced, and you can't bring those out. We're not over-populated with sentenced individuals," he said.
Commissioners did not take any formal action on the matter.