Losing Their Lunch: School Food Plan Hits New Snag

Source: Jarrett Murphy, Village Voice, December 30, 2005

The food system that serves New York City’s 1.1 million schoolchildren took another blow Friday—only the latest in the 18 months since the Department of Education launched a new plan to have just three delivery companies distribute food to schools in all five boroughs. The company that handled deliveries in South Brooklyn and Staten Island, Watemelons Plus, is getting out of its contract. In fact, according to the DOE press office, it is getting out of business altogether.

And this matters why? Well, the New York City school system is the second biggest feeder in the United States (the military ranks No. 1), the DOE has made a genuine effort recently to improve food services to fend off childhood obesity, and the school food system has been a trouble-spot for years, with several vendors going to federal prison earlier this decade for colluding to rip taxpayers off. Then there’s the money: millions of dollars in food sales and delivery costs, not to mention the $12 million for the Accenture consultancy to—among other potential cost-saving ideas—map out the food delivery plan that keeps not quite working.

Outsourcing gets mixed reviews

Source: Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat (FL), January 2, 2006

One of Gov. Jeb Bush’s biggest and most important “outsourcing” initiatives just got mixed marks from the Legislature’s efficiency analysts. The Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability ended its bean-counting for 2005 with a study of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s “re-engineering” with Accenture. From 2001 through September, DBPR paid the company $44.6 million – about two-thirds of the total for a contract that runs through 2008 – to create an online licensing system, Internet portal and call center.

Milwaukee to purge own voter data, blames state for delay

Source: JAMES A. CARLSON, Associated Press (WI), January 3, 2006

……. The board targeted August 2005 to test the system developed by the private contractor Accenture LLP, but Kennedy said that testing showed the system was not good enough, and more work on it has led to more delays. State officials hope that a new release of computer software Jan. 12 will take care of the issues raised previously and get the system up and running, he said. …… Wisconsin signed Accenture to a $13.9 million contract to create the statewide voter list. Accenture officials have said there were more problems than expected in creating the software.

Counties strain to meet inmate health-care costs

Source: Nin-Hai Tseng, Orlando Sentinel (FL), January 3, 2006

….. Volusia has privatized inmate health care with the goal of containing rising costs. The county contracts with Tennessee-based Prison Health Services Inc., which charges the county fixed rates to treat inmates inside and outside the jail. Although the costs of contracts budgeted have nearly doubled to $5.4 million since fiscal year 2000-01, county officials say the system has helped control expenses. Even though Prison Health Services has had a spotty record in states it has served, Volusia’s budget for inmate health care has rarely gone over the annual budgeted amount during the past five fiscal years.

Scott County reaches deal for jail food services

Source: MATT SANDERS, Southeast Missourian, Friday, December 23, 2005

BENTON, Mo. — If the food in the Scott County Jail makes an inmate sick, it soon won’t be the county’s problem. At its Tuesday meeting, the Scott County Commission approved bids for meal and commissary service in the jail. Starting sometime in January, ARAMARK Correctional Services of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., will provide meal service to the jail. Commissary service will be provided by Keefe Commissary Network of Earth City, Mo. ….. Scott City Sheriff Rick Walter said the most important aspect of the meal service contract is that the county will no longer be liable if a prisoner is served bad food and gets sick, the contractor will. The professional food service company will also be more equipped to provide meals that follow proper nutrition guidelines, he said.

Sexton resigning from prison board

Source: Tina Moore, Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), Fri, Dec. 23, 2005

Longtime Republican power broker Charles P. Sexton Jr. is stepping down from the board that oversees Delaware County’s troubled prison. ……. Sexton’s resignation from the county’s Board of Prison Inspectors follows a spate of suspicious prison deaths and the pending expiration of a contract with the private company that runs the jail. The George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Thornton is the state’s only privately run prison. ….. The $32.8 million contract between the county and GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut, expires May 31. It was signed in 1995. Two of the deaths in the last year were of high-profile violent offenders and raise questions about the prison’s supervision of mentally ill inmates.

Judge allows takeover of state center to proceed / Rejects union call to issue injunction

Source: Sara Eaton, The Journal Gazette (IN), Fri, Dec. 23, 2005

The takeover of the Fort Wayne State Developmental Center on Jan. 1 is no longer in jeopardy after an Allen Superior Court judge on Thursday refused to grant a preliminary injunction preventing it. An employee, Anita Stuller, and her union filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mitch Daniels, Family and Social Services Secretary Mitchel Roob and another state leader this month. The lawsuit sought to at least temporarily stop the takeover of the center and to force the state to go through a bidding process before giving control to a private company. In May, state officials hired Pennsylvania-based Liberty Healthcare Corp. to manage the center – a $3 million contract over 18 months. The company is slated to take over operations of the center at 4900 St. Joe Center Road on Jan. 1. …. Judge Nancy Eshcoff Boyer heard arguments from attorneys on both sides this week. She issued a ruling Thursday against Stuller and the union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 62.

Titans of Trash

Source: Heather Rogers, The Nation, December 19, 2005

……. King George looks like any typical modern-day garbage landfill, except it’s not. Atop this grass-cloaked trash butte is a ten-acre parcel dedicated to research and development on the next generation of sanitary landfills, known in the industry as the “bioreactor.” This facility pumps enormous volumes of toxic liquids into the guts of the landfill to speed the decomposition of organic materials, which will hasten the dump’s settling and make more room for discards. The bioreactor’s intensified decaying also forces a sharp spike in methane gas, a natural byproduct of biodegradation. This is a problem because methane is a serious global warming threat

…… The corporations that handle much of the country’s garbage today make their money in direct proportion to the amount that gets thrown away: the more trash, the more cash. In fact, these companies earn the highest profits from castoffs that get landfilled; burying rubbish generates more before-tax income than all other waste company operations combined. And since organic items make up almost two-thirds of all landfilled waste, these firms would stand to lose vast profits if those discards were diverted to, say, a composting program. Bioreactor technology, by contrast, is designed to maintain maximum flows of discards into the ground.

According to David Kirkpatrick, managing director of a Durham, North Carolina, firm that invests in clean technologies: “Clearly, [for-profit landfill operators] will make more money the more tons that come in. Any front-end separation for composting reduces the volumes going into the landfill, and that reduces revenues.”

Audit shows problems with state sales-tax receipts

Source: By DON WALKER, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI), Dec. 22, 2005

A new review of the troubled computer system used to manage state sales-tax receipts has found new problems, resulting in underpayments and overpayments to counties that receive proceeds from the tax. The Legislative Audit Bureau released the report on the troubled Integrated Tax System (ITS) this morning. …… State officials paid American Management Systems $12.2 million for the system, but the cost has since ballooned to at least $27.6 million. The higher costs also are reflective of changes in the contract and changes in the scope of the computer system. In 2003, software problems within the system forced 57 counties to repay the state $24.5 million after the department overpaid them. Last summer, another glitch resulted in 23 counties being shorted $1.3 million and 35 others being overpaid about $2 million.

S.D. County to consider hiring new tech vendor

Source: Craig Gustafson, San Diego Union Tribune (CA), December 21, 2005

……. Northrop Grumman would replace Computer Sciences Corp., which the county hired in 1999 to outsource its information technology services. At the time, the $644 million deal received national attention in technology and government sectors as one of the largest privatizations of government to date. The partnership had its ups and downs. In 2002, the county withheld a $44 million payment because of persistent problems, including computer outages, inadequate Internet bandwidth and lack of anti-virus software. The dispute was eventually settled. ….. The contract with Northrop Grumman calls for the county to spend about $93 million annually, plus additional startup costs in the first year. It is slightly more than the $92 million spent annually in the deal with Computer Sciences.