Washington County may seek a food service provider for the new Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Center once the building is complete.

Jail Administrator Rob Bellamy was given permission by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to seek a request for proposal to potentially hire a food service provider.

The county currently employs one full-time person to prepare meals in the 15-bed jail.

“When we move into a 120-bed jail, things are going to dramatically change as far as meal preparations and how it's done,” Bellamy said.

Meal preparation in the justice center will fall under the scrutiny of Nebraska Jail Standards, the Nebraska Department of Health and the Nebraska School Lunch Program.

“We have plenty of oversight from Big Brother, which requires that we jump through some hoops that you wouldn't normally think about or consider in a jail environment,” Bellamy said.

In talking with administrators from similar sized facilities, Bellamy found most, if not all, contract with a paid provider to provide meals for the inmates.

“My first question is why would you do that?” he said. “Across the board, every one of them said it's dramatically cheaper.”

Supervisor Jay Anderson, District 5-Blair, agreed.

“It makes sense what you're asking to do moving forward to look into this at least to see,” he said. “I can tell you the cost savings would probably be pretty startling to you.”

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