Curry County commissioners say the price for renovating the jail kitchen has dropped from $4 million to $300,000 because of the work of one man — Facilities Operations Director Joe Wright.
“He did this on his own,” Commissioner Robert Sandoval said Tuesday. “Not as an employee, but as a taxpayer and on his own time.”
Sandoval pointed out that commissioners heard estimates ranging from $2.5 million to $4 million to fix the kitchen after the state threatened in May to shut it down for numerous health and safety violations. Wright, Sandoval noted, risking the wrath of former commissioners, stood up and said he thought it could be done for much less.
Commissioners then approved a motion to seek bids on a renovation presented by consultant and designer Jack Abraham and estimated to come in at about $300,000.
Abraham called the renovation state of the art, including new stainless steel appliances and countertops. He said it will meet the jail’s need to serve 250 meals three times a day and could actually handle up to 400 meals three times a day.
Abraham estimated construction would take about six weeks. During construction, inmate meals will be prepared at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars kitchen and transported to the jail, County Manager Lance Pyle said after the meeting.
The single biggest cost for the renovation is replacing appliances such as dishwashers, freezers and refrigerators. Abraham estimated that cost at about $200,000 and said the estimated life of the appliances should be at least 15 years “if properly maintained.” He said the current appliances indicate lack of proper maintenance.
Abraham said the current under-sized kitchen and laundry facilities will be expanded using adjacent staff locker rooms that were not being used. He said the renovation will also include eliminating two of three doors used to deliver goods to the kitchen, eliminating some security issues.
“This is going to save the county a lot of money,” Sandoval said, “and we owe Mr. Wright a debt of thanks as a taxpayer and an employee.”
Wright responded to plaudits from Sandoval and other commissioners, noting, “It wasn’t just me.” He said kitchen staff, the jail’s Interim Jail Administrator Tori Sandoval and Sheriff Matt Murray were all actively involved in helping.