AUGUSTA — State officials have put a proposal to bring food trucks to the state’s east side campus, where there are about 750 workers but few dining options, on the back burner after getting only two responses from food truck operators.

The state sought quotes for mobile food truck services to provide dining options outside its complex of offices on the former grounds of Augusta Mental Health Institute on the east side of the Kennebec River in November. However, the request for quotes only brought two proposals, so a state official said Friday they plan to shelve the plan for now and start again in the spring, when they hope to get more interest from food truck operators.

David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said the state learned through the recently completed process that most food truck operations shut down for the winter, and thus may not be on the lookout for work this time of year.

“In a perfect world we would intend to launch this effort immediately,” Heidrich said of bringing food trucks to the east side campus. “It’s likely that we will look to launch this effort again in spring 2018, when we could launch this service with a more robust lineup of options.”

Two food truck operators submitted proposals to the state’s request, Portland-based Mainely Burgers and Mechanic Falls-based Shut up N eat it.

Max Barber, 22, who owns and operates the three-truck Mainely Burgers business, which also has a stationary restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his brother Jack, 24, said he, too, suspects more food truck operators would submit proposals if the state sought quotes when seasonal food trucks are in operation, not after they’ve shut down for the winter season.

“This is our offseason, like a lot of other operators, we store our trucks and focus on other things,” during the winter, Barber said. “It’s not the best time of year to find food trucks.”

Barber said he thinks the state is on to a good idea and a food truck that parks on the state office campus could do well, with that many workers and no obvious nearby dining spots within walking distance.

“It’s a great opportunity, in my opinion, especially with 750 people and there not being a lot of good food options,” he said. “It could be good for food trucks, and good for state employees. I think they’ll have success and get a strong following.”

This photo taken on Friday shows State of Maine East Side Campus. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Billie-Jo Severy, owner of the Shut up N’ eat it food truck, is so interested in the proposal that, Friday, she had her boyfriend working to insulate the food truck, to winterize it so they could serve food on the state campus through the winter.

She was disappointed the state may not pursue the plan, and hopes to reach a deal to come sell food on the east side campus, perhaps as kind of a trial run.

“My boyfriend is out there right now, winterizing the truck as we speak, for this,” she said. “We’re hoping to do something with (the state), otherwise I’ll be looking for ice fishing derbies and things like that. I think it’s a great idea, especially for the employees who won’t have to leave to get something to eat.”

Severy said the idea should be attractive to food trucks because, usually, most of the events where they serve food take place on weekends, while the state offices would be in use on weekdays.

Shut up N’ eat it serves comfort food, including homemade macaroni and cheese, chili, corndogs, deep fried pickles, chicken wings with Severy’s own sauce, and unusual combinations such as an all beef hot dog with mac and cheese, and “slop” which includes a layer of mac and cheese, chili, and nachos.

Severy said the light-hearted name of her business comes from her kids and boyfriend, who she said are picky eaters. As in, when they complain they don’t like onions, or some other item, she responds by telling them to shut up and eat their food.

“I like personality,” she said.

Severy said she usually does festivals, including the Whatever Family Festival in Augusta and Riverfest in Gardiner, and events including the Union Fair.

Mainely Burgers, obviously, specializes in burgers, with a motto of “The way burgers should be.” It also has side dishes such as hand-cut fries, Brussels sprouts, and fried cauliflower.

They started in 2012 with a single truck that works summers at Scarborough Beach, and have since added a restaurant in Massachusetts and two other trucks that work summers in the Portland area.

Barber said by submitting a proposal to the state’s request the business was not committing to serve food in Augusta, which he said would be a fairly long drive for their trucks. He said they might be interested in trying it as a sort of trial run. He said while there appears to be opportunity there, there is also some risk because the site would be new, so there is no way to know for sure whether state employees or others on the east side campus would provide enough business.

“It’s an untested event, so for us to commit to going a few times a week is kind of out of the picture for now,” he said. “Hopefully we can work something out and do a trial run, help bring success. But it’s tricky, with untested events.”

Heidrich said food truck operators would be expected to show up to serve on a schedule which would be negotiated between the state and operators. But he said if the arrangement turns out to not be beneficial to the state or operator, a mutually agreeable solution could be negotiated to end the lease agreement.

The food truck operators would be expected to pay a monthly lease of $100, according to the state’s request for quotes. Food trucks, and other businesses, are not allowed to solicit business on state property without prior permission.

Heidrich said there currently is only a small cafe with a limited menu on the east campus, Ray’s Cafe in the Ray Building and, across Hospital Street in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles building, Tim’s Cafe.

“This new service would give the individuals on this campus more options, including specialty items for breakfast and lunch without having to travel off campus,” Heidrich said. “We are looking for a variety of options, including specialty offerings as well as basic coffee and lunch items.”

He said the food trucks would be intended to supplement on-campus options, not replace patronage, by state employees and others on the campus, at local businesses.

The state’s selection process is expected to include sampling of food trucks’ offerings.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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