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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Judge Dan Heath signs a contract Wednesday with Minnesota-based A’viands to privatize food services at the Allen County Juvenile Center.

Juvenile Center privatized food service to save $50,000

– A new contract that privatizes the food service at the Allen County Juvenile Center will save taxpayers thousands of dollars, officials touted Wednesday.

Judge Dan Heath of the Allen Superior Court’s Family Relations Division signed the contract with A’viands LLC during a news conference at the juvenile center.

Heath, who became a judge in the Family Relations Division in April, told reporters the Allen County Council had been encouraging the center to privatize the food service since before he took over.

“Even if our detention numbers do not decrease, we should see savings for the taxpayers in excess of $50,000 per year,” Heath said.

The center houses between 90 and 95 juveniles daily and serves them three meals every day.

Heath made assurances that A’viands, a Minnesota company, will adhere to quality as well as to food regulations – calorie intake, healthfulness – that the state mandates be served to juveniles.

The move to privatize, though, did result in the loss of jobs for two of the five people who worked in the center’s kitchen.

Still, Heath said, by privatizing, the county is no longer responsible for the pensions or benefits for the kitchen employees retained.

A’viands has expertise in finding meals where quality won’t be affected, Heath said.

The price of meals has been fixed, so if detention rates go down for the next year, money will be saved there, as well.

Officials plan to try to reduce the retention rate, which would mean fewer meals being served. That could save taxpayers $10,000 or $20,000 more a year, Heath said.

A’viands and the county will renegotiate for a contract next year, officials said.

“We see it as a win-win,” Heath said of the contract with the company.

County Councilman Roy Buskirk was on hand for the news conference and congratulated Heath on getting the deal signed.

“This has actually been a three-year project,” Buskirk said.