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County inmates eat interim food

Dray Rivera (right), of Urbandale, helps unload trays while Cheryl Barrett from the Waukee Hy-Vee looks on. Hy-Vee recently has been supplying the Dallas County Jail with food for the prisoners. Picture by Jim Caufield, editor of the Perry Chief.
Dray Rivera (right), of Urbandale, helps unload trays while Cheryl Barrett from the Waukee Hy-Vee looks on. Hy-Vee recently has been supplying the Dallas County Jail with food for the prisoners. Picture by Jim Caufield, editor of the Perry Chief.

One side effect of the closing of the Dallas County Care Facility, also known as the county home, has been the Dallas County Sheriff’s sudden need to find a new source of meals for inmates of the county jail.

The kitchen staff of the care facility, which for many years has not only fed the residents of the county home but also provided three daily meals for an average jail population of 30-40, ceased serving the sheriff’s office on Feb. 6.

Dallas County Jail Administrator and Chief Deputy Doug Lande said the sheriff’s office issued a request for proposals in January in order to find a new provider of the inmate meals. In the meantime, the Waukee Hy-Vee has been delivering meals, Lande said.

Two companies bid on the contract, Lande said, but one proposal was submitted after the deadline and was incorrectly formatted, and so the contenders are reduced to one.

Even if the identity of the successful bidder is a foregone conclusion, the formalities of assessing the proposal and making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors must still be adhered to, Lande said.

“We will still execute the evaluation process, which involves rating the proposal on a point scale and then presenting our report to the board of supervisors,” he said. The supervisors might choose to convene a public hearing on the matter, Lande said, because the contract for meals will span two fiscal years, a condition often triggering public input.

Lande said he was “impressed” by the proposal, which “was three cents under what we currently pay per meal. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you figure three meals a day for 30 to 40 people and spread that over a year, the pennies make a big difference.”

Jail meals accounted in 2012 for nearly $150,000 of revenue for Dallas, Inc., the management company that operated the Dallas County Care Facility, according to the facility’s most recent Medicaid cost report.

In the meantime, Cheryl Barrett from the Waukee Hy-Vee has been supplying the county jailers with food for the prisoners.

“It’s our fifth day doing this,” said Barrett, a Washington state native who has lived in Iowa for one year. “It seems to be going pretty well,” she said.

Amanda Jones, a jailer at the county lockup, said the inmates noticed the difference in the food with the switch from the county home.

“They noticed right away,” she said, without indicating whether the change met with approval or its opposite.

Dray Rivera, 23, of Urbandale, who has been detained since Dec. 29 for violating the terms of his probation, helped Barrett unload trays from the Hy-Vee van while Jones looked on.

“The food is okay,” he said. “It’s not home cooking, but it could be worse.”

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