Originally created 07/21/02

Cronyism abating



Augusta commissioners have been claiming lately that they're getting along a lot better, that the bad old days of acrimonious racial and geographic divisiveness are drawing to a close.

Even the special grand jury report which harkened back to the nasty cronyism era of ego-driven Fire Chief Ronnie Few has not stirred up old animosities - at least not on the commission.

Evidence of this new spirit of cooperation was on full display Thursday when the commission voted 7-2 to continue Rural/Metro's ambulance service for at least three more years.

To be sure, specifics in terms of accountability and response time improvements still have to be hammered out in contract talks, but the chance that Rural/Metro's low bid of $760,000 won't survive negotiations are very slim. The firm is a known entity and as the vote indicates, the commission and public have confidence in it.

Although Rural-Metro's bid was more than $400,000 under that of rival Gold Cross EMS, and promised to employ two more ambulances than Gold Cross, there were political reasons why the commission might have taken the higher bid.

Gold Cross owner Bo Pounds and CEO Tom Schneider are well connected to some powerful local politicians, including state Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta. If a commission majority yielded to cronyism, it could have trumped up reasons to accept Gold Cross.

As it turned out, only two commissioners voted against the low bidder - Richard Colclough and Marion Williams. The solid support for Rural Metro shows the commission is making decisions on contentious issues that used to tear them apart. We hope to see more of this cooperation.