City Council Resumes School Food Service Program

(File photograph.)

The City Council has approved the continuation of a food service contract after payments were suspended following an extension dispute.

On Tuesday, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. came before councilors to ask them to authorize Mayor James J. Fiorentini to continue the city’s contract with Islandia, N.Y.-based Whitsons New England. Whitsons has been working with Haverhill since June 2014 through a five-year contract made up of five individual one-year contracts. However, a financial review by the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials noted only the City Council can authorize contracts in excess of three years. The last of these one-year contracts is set to expire on June 30 of next year. Payments were still suspended until the council could give its approval.

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan supported extending the contract, saying steps have been taken to prevent this problem from happening in the future. Councillor Melinda E. Barrett asked if this issue also arose from the contract not being approved through the proper channels. Cox said that was not the case because of stronger regulations when dealing with food programs.

“The school food service program is a bit more regulated than most of the other contracts that we authorize. There are very specific guidelines and requirements that we need to comply with every time we go ahead and put that out to bid,” Cox said.

Councillor Timothy J. Jordan asked if it would be possible to put Haverhill’s contract up for bid sooner than June 30. School Business Manager Brian A. O’Connell said the contract would go up for bid in early winter and it would be most practical to let the current contract with Whitsons finish due to the small amount of time remaining on it.

The council approved the continuation of the Whitsons contract eight votes to none, with Councillor William J. Macek being absent.