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County to take look at cost of feeding prisoners

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| May 12, 2009 12:00 AM

The cost of feeding prisoners their three square meals a day is on the rise and as a result, Lincoln County is taking a look at making a change.

St. John’s Lutheran Hospital in Libby currently prepares meals for prisoners but is losing a substantial chunk of money. The hospital’s Steve Chavez told county commissioners on Wednesday that an external audit had revealed a loss of more than $40,000 per year.

“We went back and looked at it and realized we hadn’t raised any prices since 2001 – that was the last time in our records that we could see,” Chavez said.

Chavez said the hospital is just looking for ways to control costs and at least break even.

“We’re looking at actual costs; we’re not figuring out any margin for income or anything like that,” Chavez said.

The current costs are $4 for breakfast, $4.25 for lunch and $4.50 for dinner.

“To break even, it (costs) roughly $6.28 per meal,” Chavez said. “That includes our salaries, time spent doing that, the meal cost for supplies and food.”

Last year, Chavez said the hospital prepared 21,411 meals for the jail.

The meals are subject to nutrition guidelines that must be met, therefore, a nutritionist is a required part of the package.

John Konzen, Lincoln County commissioners board chairman, said it might be best to advertise for a request for proposals.

“We want this to be a win-win for everybody,” Chavez said. “The costs have gone up, that’s a reality. We don’t want to leave the county hanging.”

Chavez added that the hospital has no problems if the task went to another local entity of business. It appears that there could be other options for meal preparation.

“We’re very satisfied with what you’ve done,” Konzen told Chavez. “If we’re going to change something, that is always difficult.”