Originally created 04/15/04

Senior council argues food bid



Senior Citizens Council of Greater Augusta officials will ask the CSRA Regional Development Center board tonight to rescind last month's vote to award a bid to a Florida company to run the nutrition program currently headquartered in Augusta.

The loss of the contract will cost Augusta 31 jobs, a $600,000 annual payroll and $2 million of its $3.2 million annual budget, said Ron Schoeffler, the executive director of the council.

In the first year of a four-year contract with the council, the CSRA Regional Development Center and its executive director, Andy Crosson, abruptly rebid the service, and the board awarded the contract to the for-profit G.A. Food Services Inc.

Dr. Schoeffler is appealing the decision because the bidding process was not done in accordance with state competitive bidding requirements, and the CSRA board was not fully informed about the results, he said.

Mr. Crosson said his agency did everything they were required to do under the bid process.

"It was an open, fair, competitive bid, and I think that based on the bid packages that were submitted, one bidder was clearly more responsive than the other," he said.

Dr. Schoeffler said he believes he is being punished for blowing the whistle about the Regional Development Center's use of government money to raise its employees' pay at the expense of important programs and services to the needy.

Mr. Hammond provided documents that show the salaries of 11 top employees of the center rose 33 percent between 2000 and 2003. Mr. Crosson's increased 27 percent, from $40,667 to $97,884.

The salaries do not include benefits, which include 18 percent tax-free pension-fund contributions, 3.5 percent professional education, no Social Security withholding, health insurance, life insurance, 18 paid days off and 9 holidays, according to the agency's financial records.

Dr. Schoeffler and employees who prepare the meals in the kitchen at the Senior Center on 15th Street in Augusta haven't had a raise in four years, Mr. Hammond said.

Mr. Crosson said the food contract and his agency's salaries are two different things.

"I think it's a deliberate attempt by the Senior Citizens Council to mislead the public about the issues at hand," he said.