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Commissioners end free meals for many county employees


March 22, 2012
OSSIPEE — County commissioners have voted two to one that only nursing home and jail employees will continue to receive a free meal.

Food Service Director Rob Horace brought his concerns to the commissioners at their March 14 meeting, citing over expenditures in the cost of food at the nursing home for the first two months of this year. The cost of food is going up, he said, mostly due to rising food costs. Those costs have increased 11.5 percent over last year, with the cost of food for January and February up $3,172 over projections. Horace said cost-saving measures have been taken including changing the group purchasing organization so he leverage bulk food purchasing at national pricing as part of a bigger group and revising menus to avoid food items whose prices are rising rapidly.

But it's the volume of food now being served as compared to the old nursing home and free staff meals that is really putting a hit on his budget. He recommended the commissioners phase out the free meals for county employees unless the union contracts provide for it.

County staff currently receives a free meal at the nursing home, the same meal that is provided for nursing home residents. Employees can choose instead to purchase a sandwich or an ala carte meal consisting of other items available in the buffet line. That will change effective April 1. Starting that date, only the nursing home and jail employees will be eligible for the free meal as required in the union contract. The sheriff's department contract does not have that provision and the rest of county employees are not employed under a union contract.

The commissioners also agreed on what the meals will cost. County employees and any other member of the public can purchase a sub-style sandwich for $2, the resident meal that includes milk or juice for $3, or pick and choose items off the buffet and pay accordingly.

Horace said court employees are using the nursing home cafeteria and are sending juries over as well which is generating revenue for the county.

Commissioner Asha Kenney did not offer an amendment to the motion but instead voted no after stating several times she thinks the jail and nursing home administrative staff should not get the free meal because they make more money than the employees.

Other business

Commissioners put out to bid, and spent about $500 advertising the job but received only one bid for the county complex IT contract. The county's human resource director said three companies contacted her but only one submitted a bid. The request for bids was put in five publications, including a newspaper in Portland and advertised on the county Web site. Kenney said further advertising should be done and towns should be contacted to find out who does their computer maintenance so other bidders can be solicited. The current contract expires at the end of the month. Fortunately, commissioners did not open the one bid they received or announce the bid amount in their public meeting. They had been chastised in the past when they opened the sole bid for the pellet boiler installation and announced the amount in the public meeting, only to then put it back out to bid, still receiving only that bid. After much discussion and with apparent trepidation, Commissioner Dorothy Solomon said, "The bid was put out. As a business person it is their obligation to check for these things if they are interested. However, if you are so inclined to go into a second offering of this bid I would absolutely not want this bid to be opened."

"I think we did it properly but since we have a member of the board of commissioners that thinks we ought to put it out to rebid and to talk with Chamber of Commerce people I would suggest she handle the bids specifications and that she see it appear in the paper and go from there," said Commissioner David Sorensen.

And with that, commissioners agreed to let Kenney handle soliciting more bids with a deadline of March 21. Details of how that deadline worked were not available as of press time but will be reported next week.

Gilford Well
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
PArkerVillager Internal Page
Coos County Department of Corr
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