Sheriff Jason Mosher told Vernon County commissioners Tuesday that he had negotiated a less costly jail food contract with Consolidated Correctional Management Co., which last year charged the county more than $130,000 to feed an average of 60 inmates per day.
"I had two other vendors there and told Consolidated we wouldn't pay more than $125,000 no matter what, which they agreed to," said Mosher, adding that the Des Moines, Iowa-based company's contract is being extended for a year with options to run through 2014.
Asked about assignments of the chain gangs he has just begun dispatching, sending the first five-man crew out last Thursday to work on both sides of Centennial Boulevard, Mosher said the project went well and that he plans to continue the labors of the prisoners in black and white striped pants and orange and yellow reflector vests on a weekly basis.
Commissioner Neal Gerster said he had heard numerous positive comments and suggested that the sheriff and his jail administrator, Mike Buehler, "find more places that need some cleaning done."
During a brief recess, Mosher said Buehler excludes inmates charged with crimes like murder, rape and other sex offenses because, facing possible long terms in state prison, they'd be more prone to try to escape. "We sent two trustees out last week," he said, referring to inmates who have earned privileges by proving their reliability.
"They're inmates who have shown good behavior in the jail. They volunteered to go because they're happy to get out and do something for the community rather than sitting in jail all day.
"It went good. There was a whole bunch of cars driving back and forth (to see the chain gang work) from 1 to 2:30 p.m."
Mosher said his recently approved plan to provide a full-time court bailiff and courthouse security officer, Deputy Greg Prough, conforms with state law that only allows circuit courts to supply them in big counties with at least two jails and 2,000 inmates. "They add fees to the court costs, which I don't think would be feasible here," he said.
Mosher said commissioners will notice a decrease in deputies' and jailers' compensatory time by the end of this month and a bigger drop by late February, owing to his new staffing schedules.
The sheriff's office and jail budgets have been tentatively approved for the county's calendar year 2013 budget, which calls for a county-wide total of $3,469,943 in expenditures and is subject to final adoption Jan. 30.
The commission has OK'd sheriff's office expenditures of $570,195, compared to $639,564 in 2011 and $797,671 last year, according to documents. The jail budget is for $867,561, compared to $791,235 two years ago and $833,763 for 2012.
With 2012's year-ending $513,240 surplus being taken advantage of, the new budget projects $3,124,641 in revenues and a year-end cash balance of $167,939.
Sales tax revenues were $958,230 in 2011 and $935,341 in 2012 and are conservatively projected to run $872,000 this year.
Neighboring counties paid Vernon County $393,583 to jail their inmates in 2011 and $478,033 last year and should kick in at least $400,000 in 2013.
The recycling center is expected to produce about $30,000 after ringing up $28,591 two years ago and $17,105 last year.
Fees turned over by the 28th Circuit Court totaled $58,325 in 2011 and $50,359 in '12 and they are expected to total $72,310 this year.
In other business Tuesday afternoon, Sheldon farmer Larry Fowler reported that the GPS (global positioning system) services the county has been working to make part of its 9-1-1 system are getting no results in south central Vernon County.
Presiding Commissioner Bonnie McCord said all addresses in the county were provided to GPS location and navigation companies like Garmin and TomTom "years ago" but were only made serviceable for hand-held applications in late 2012.
Explaining that the flubs have snafued the delivery of supplies to his farm, Fowler said, "They didn't update mine.
"You still can't find 125 Road, let alone my address."
McCord summoned County GIS (geographic information systems) Director Tim Bourassa, who detailed his efforts to make GPS workable for everyone.
Agreeing at Gerster's urging to work with Fowler, Bourassa said he has executed arrangements with all the location-navigation firms.
"All except Google," Gerster said.
Bourassa explained that Google is not being used because of a flaw in its GPS setup. "That's because with Google, somebody could rename the roads," he said.