Bill Ramsey, the blind vendor threatened with losing his concession business at the Baltimore County Detention Center, has won the fight to keep his job.
In order to get part of the profit, Baltimore County was proposing to accept bids for running the commissary that Mr. Ramsey now operates in the jail. But in a news release yesterday, County Executive Roger B. Hayden backed off, saying Mr. Ramsey would be allowed to continue to run the jail commissary as he's done since 1984.
"I feel good," said Mr. Ramsey, 52. "I really do. Of course, who wouldn't, when your job is saved?"
Mr. Hayden's statement said the administration is "trying to take advantage of every opportunity . . . to reduce expenditures for the county." And "competitively bidding the contract for the Detention Center's inmate commissary service seemed like a viable way to do so."
However, county officials didn't know that Mr. Ramsey, who operates under a special state program for blind vendors, would be prohibited by the program from submitting his own bid, the Hayden statement continued.
"It is unfair of us to deprive him of his livelihood," it concluded.
Scott Dennis, an official with the state department of vocational rehabilitation, which oversees the blind vendor program, said he wasn't surprised by Mr. Hayden's decision. He was confident that once the county executive understood the situation, he would allow Mr. Ramsey to continue his business. "We're appreciative of the fact that the county executive did sit down and take a good, hard look at the program," he said.
Mr. Ramsey, who sold roughly $350,000 worth of soap, cigarettes and other items to inmates last year, employs four people. He said he earns roughly $30,000 a year. Jail officials figured that if a private vendor paid them a commission on sales, the county could have netted $50,000 a year in extra revenue.