Originally created 04/28/04

Lawyers enter food service battle



The Senior Citizens Council of Greater Augusta's governing board hired two attorneys Tuesday to represent the center in its battle to retain the nutrition program in Augusta.

The board voted unanimously to hire Shawn P. Hammond and Bill McCracken to challenge the CSRA Regional Development Center's decision to rebid the food service contract and award it to a for-profit Florida company.

The board's regular attorney, state Sen. Randy Hall, cannot represent the council in the dispute because it involves state money and would be a conflict, the council's Executive Director Ron Schoeffler said.

The nutrition program, which delivers meals for elderly and handicapped residents in a 16- county area, is based in the 15th Street facility in Augusta.

The center's abrupt decision to rebid and then award the contract to the Florida company threatens 31 Augusta jobs and a $600,000 annual payroll, Dr. Schoeffler said.

Since 2001, cutbacks and loss of programs have cost the center 55 jobs and a $818,762 annual payroll, according to financial records.

The center's executive director, Andy Crosson, contends cost savings from the new contract will mean more meals for area residents, but Dr. Schoeffler disputes the claim.

The Senior Citizens Council is a subcontractor for the regional center, a planning and funding agency that receives state and federal money and allocates it to service providers such as the council.

Council officials contend the regional board's action was illegal and the appeal process it afforded the council was illegal.

The council's financial officer, Lawrence R. Hammond, was allowed to speak at the regional development center's board meeting in Thomson earlier this month, but did not persuade them to rescind the vote awarding the contract to G.A. Food Services Inc.

The regional board voted 18-7 to approve Augusta Mayor Bob Young's motion to uphold the contract.