Originally created 04/16/04

Board upholds contract for meals



THOMSON - The CSRA Regional Development Center board refused on Thursday to reverse last month's vote to award a bid to a Florida company to run a multicounty nutrition program.

The board voted 18-7 to approve Augusta Mayor Bob Young's motion to uphold the contract with for-profit G.A. Food Services Inc. Thomson Mayor Bob Knox seconded the motion. Both men are members of the development center's board.

The program, which delivers meals to the elderly and disabled, is based in Augusta.

The vote means Augusta will lose the 31 jobs, $600,000 annual payroll and $2 million of its $3.2 million annual budget that comes from operating the kitchen at the senior center on 15th Street.

Augusta Commissioner Betty Beard voted against the motion.

"We are losing jobs. I thought we should try to keep it in Augusta," she said.

The Senior Citizens Council is a subcontractor for the regional center, in which the Area Agency on Aging is housed. It is a planning and funding agency that receives state and federal money and allocates it to service providers such as the Senior Citizens Council.

The senior center's finance officer, Lawrence R. Hammond, outlined the case for rescinding the bid. He contended that the senior center was doing a good job and that the recent bidding process was flawed.

Mr. Young defended the regional center's executive director, Andy Crosson, and the bid process.

"The process in my view was open. It was fair, and it was competitive," Mr. Young said.

After the vote, there were calls to recall Mr. Young from office from about 60 people who attended the meeting at White Columns Inn in Thomson. Many were carrying signs saying "Save Our Jobs."

"I think it's really lowdown," said Ann S. Knighton, senior nutrition and enrichment assistant at the center.

"And I really am disenchanted and displeased that the mayor stood up and made the motion that he did. I don't think we should be giving money to people in Florida, because that's Georgia taxpayers' money."

Ron Schoeffler, the executive director of the senior center in Augusta, told the board that the executive committee of the center's board meets Tuesday and will look at its options.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.