Inmates won’t be preparing the meals in the Letcher County Jail any more.
The Letcher Fiscal Court voted unanimously Monday night to accept the bid of Community Agricultural Nutritional Enterprise (CANE Kitchen) of Whitesburg to provide meals for the jail. Only one other bid came in for food service from the jail, from Kellwell, of Beattyville. Kellwell is a national company that provides food services to correctional institutions, primarily in the eastern United States.
CANE Kitchen is a locally based nonprofit founded to stimulate the ability of regional farms to sell produce locally. It is also involved with the Letcher County Farmers’ Market. CANE’s bid included three hot meals a day per prisoner for $1.30 per meal. Kellwell’s bid package was based on the number of inmates served, and the jail’s average population. CANE Kitchen’s bid was significantly lower. Kellwell also only offered two hot meals per day.
Both providers’ bids were based on state nutritional guidelines, and those put in place by the Kentucky Department of Corrections. CANE Kitchen will prepare meals at its facility in the old Whitesburg High School, and transport them to the jail, which is located nearby in downtown Whitesburg. Kellwell’s bid included plans to prepare meals at the jail and several magistrates said that by using the offsite preparation, the jail’s utility costs will be reduced.
In a related matter, Jailer Bert Slone presented the Letcher County Jail’s budget for the coming year. The budget is balanced with income and expenditures both at $1,064,300. Slone also reported that the Jail Commissary Fund started the month of February at $96,214.16, and ended with a total of $104,220.23. Total receipts for the month were $25,783.36 and total expenditures were $17,777.29. The fund takes in money for sundries purchased by the inmates.
The Inmate Work Release program is on hold due to the COVID 19 virus and will not resume until the epidemic is over. Second District Magistrate Sherry Sexton, who is on the Jail Committee, announced that the jail has received a grant of $21,000 for safety equipment.
The court also accepted bids for two other packages, but decided to negotiate further rather than accepting the bids. Lewis Electric Security Systems of Whitesburg submitted the only bid for security cameras for Letcher County Schools and the $89,985 bid was higher than the school system’s $78,000 budget, which is based on a security grant it received in partnership with the court. The court also rejected the bid for purchase of the Boone Fork Senior Citizens building. Several court members said they thought the bid from Steve Fleming, of Neon, was too low, and agreed they should negotiate. Fleming bid $2,000 for the building, and the bid was the only one received.
The court also discussed the need to purchase equipment for the county garage. Judge Adams said it has made some progress in maintaining its equipment and at least some of it has gotten better. He said a surplus auction will be held in Virginia on March 21. He added that the county had bought three used trucks for the Sanitation Department last summer at the same auction, and said the trucks have been a tremendous asset to the department.
County Road Foreman and Deputy Judge Jason Back told the court that if it can purchase a couple of trucks at auction, either in Virginia or Frankfort, vehicles that now cost more to maintain than they are worth can be taken out of service. Back said the road equipment is worn out but added that it was worn out when the new court took office. He said a backhoe and excavator both need complete rebuilds, and hydraulic hoses fail daily and have to be replaced.
The court voted to allow up to $20,000 from the Road Fund and $20,000 from the General Fund for the auction. This will allow the county to stay in compliance with state bidding regulations, which require that any purchase over $20,000 be advertised for bids. Adams said sealed bids aren’t possible at an auction, and by allowing two departments to make a purchase, it meets the bidding regulations.
Back also told the court that he has been able to make some safety changes to county equipment, including putting strobe lights on sanitation trucks and first aid kits in county vehicles. Back said these things are important for workers and help keep the county in compliance with state regulations. He added that he would like to hire two more men for mowing work. He suggested the court see if it can hire two retired operators on a seasonal basis for the mowing season. He said he could actually use about five more workers if the court could afford them. Back said the road department is trying to fill potholes and address other weather-related issues, but added that it may have to hire a contractor to do some work because it doesn’t have the equipment that is necessary to do the job.
Solid Waste Coordinator Mike Gover read a reminder of the waste tire collection event that will be held at the Swanee Tipple in Isom from June 4 to 6. Gover said that county residents can bring most kinds of tires to the tipple for disposal, but tire retailers and salvage yards are not allowed. The tipple will accept all car and truck tires, except for large OTR tires, tracks, sheet rubber, solid or filled tires, or any tire with a bead larger than 1-3/4 inches. Tires that are still on the rim will also be accepted. Gocart, farm implement, all terrain vehicle, and bicycle tires will be accepted, as will truck and passenger car tires. April is Clean-up Month and the transfer station in Millstone will be open on Saturdays from 8:30 until noon. Regular weekly hours are 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
Bank balances for county agencies as of February 29
• General Fund: $783,067.08
• Road and Bridge Fund: $905,024.87
• Jail Fund: $60,702.66
• LGEA Fund: $171,880.86
• Senior Citizens Fund: $229.16
• Forestry Fund: $18,364.20
Total of all Funds: $1,909,268.83
Adams announced several steps he has taken to limit contact between individuals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adams said he has closed the Letcher County Recreation Center through March 30, and may extend the closure past that date, if it is necessary. The Senior Citizens Center, which is housed in the Recreation Center, is also closed.
Adams said he will try to limit other activities in the courthouse, and asked citizens who need to contact the county government to call his office or the county department they need to speak to try to resolve their issue, without meeting face to face. Monday’s meeting was sparsely attended, with few citizens, other than the media, county officials, and people with business with the court. (Details appear elsewhere in today’s Mountain Eagle.)