Jail officials say they're pleased to be using state purchasing.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Switching to state purchasing from informal shopping will save the county up to 44 percent on some products, Trumbull County sheriff's employees say.
County commissioners voted Wednesday to buy the food for the jail and the juvenile detention facility from the state's purchasing program, overriding a previous directive to have Tony Carson, the county purchasing director, seek bids for the first time.
The state purchasing program allows counties to buy items from a vendor selected by the state through competitive bidding. Using the program relieves a county of the obligation to seek bids, something generally required for purchases of more than $15,000.
Last October, the county jail began buying most its groceries from Acme Steak Co. of Youngstown after Carson and county Commissioner James Tsagaris gave the Youngstown company a chance to beat the price of then-supplier Sysco Corp.
Ernie Cook, chief of operations at the jail, and Crystal Lapinski, head of the jail's kitchen staff, said they are pleased the county is switching to state purchasing, a program other jails have used for years.
"The prices are so good," Lapinski said. "I don't think there is any way possible anyone can beat these prices. The prices will enable us to vary the menu more and save taxpayers money."
Tuna fish from Acme Foods cost $31 per case, waffles were $12.75 per case and corn was $19.70 per case, Lapinski said. With the state purchasing, the same size cases will cost the county $24.27 for tuna, $7.15 for waffles and $12.63 for corn, she said.
The savings on those items range from 22 percent to 44 percent.
"I'm pretty sure the numbers will come out and in a month we will notice a savings," Cook said. "We are very excited about it."
Sheriff Thomas Altiere asked commissioners to bid out the food contract after he learned in August that Carson and Tsagaris gave Acme Steak Co. the $16,000-a-month account without going through the required bidding process.
The jail has spent more that $112,000 on food so far this year, jail officials said.
The juvenile center uses several vendors, none of whom obtained the business through competitive bidding. The total annual bill for food at the juvenile detention center is about $80,000.
Although food costs at the jail declined since the switch to Acme from Sysco Corp., the reason had little to do with better food prices, Lapinski said.
Under orders from her superiors to cut meal costs, she said she ordered less-expensive products. Canned vegetables gave way to frozen ones. Orange juice was replaced by drink mix and sliced turkey ham replaced burritos and chicken patties.