Something stinks in the kitchen

Not surprisingly, our esteemed County Executive, Li’l Debbie Preston, is eager to move ahead with a contract award to the sole bidder for the county’s central food services. This despite the fact that the numbers simply do not add up. Currently the county pays an average of $4.30 per meal for a million meals a year. Under the proposed Aramark contract, based on what little information the Executive has allowed to be made public, that will be reduced to an average of $3.40 a meal while the company invests $350,000 in new facilities. Assuming the company makes about 8% profit, which is roughly what cost-reimbursable service contracts usually yield, that brings the actual amount spend per meal to $2.80. ($3.40 – $0.35 – 8%) Unless the quality of the food suffers greatly, which Preston assures it will not, it is clear that the workers will be taking it in the shorts. Some of the reduction in labor costs will come from Aramark’s proposed use of prison labor—basically slave labor—but no one knows how much or how quality will be sustained as the jail population turns over. For that matter, we do not even know what prison or jail will be involved. And there appears to be no provision in the proposed contract to give current employees any preference in hiring. Clearly many if not most, especially the most experienced, will be out on the street. Has anyone calculated the cost to the County of putting dozens of people on the food stamp and welfare rolls?

Besides the obvious shabby treatment of long-time county employees, this contract raises other questions. Why did no one else besides Aramark bid? After all, their leading competitor, Sodexo, already provides food service at Binghamton University and so has a strong presence in the area. Could it be because of Aramark’s well documented history of bid rigging? While I can find no evidence of political contributions by the company to Broome County officials, in 2008 they spent thousands of dollars helping Orange County Sherriff Carl DuBois get elected. Not surprisingly, the Orange County jail is run by Aramark Correctional Services. And no less a champion of government outsourcing than the Wall Street Journal has reported on Aramark’s ties with organized crime.

No matter how you look at it this deal stinks and should be turned down by the legislature. If the County Executive still wants to explore outsourcing the central kitchen, the competition should be reopened with a request for proposal that includes provisions for protecting the currently employees. And the County should run an open competition including a pre-bid solicitation of interest and a pre-bidders conference with the identity of interested parties made public. If there is no competition, the idea should be dropped.


1 Response to “Something stinks in the kitchen”

  1. 1 Leo Cotnoir October 9, 2015 at 08:55

    A reader sent me this interesting link to a report by the Private Corrections Working Group, an organization in Tallahassee, Florida dedicated to ending private prison. Perhaps Aramark is willing to take a loss on the Broome County kitchen job in order to position themselves to take over the County jail.

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