Originally created 09/09/04

Scores changed on bids' review



The Senior Center Council's suit against the Regional Development Center of the CSRA over the senior nutrition program contract is still alive in Richmond County Superior Court.

Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. on Wednesday postponed the case for 30 days so he can hear why a reviewer who ranked the food-contract bids later changed the scores.

The reviewer, who after initially ranking the senior center on various criteria, later lowered its scores and increased the scores for G.A. Foods Inc., the Florida-based company that was awarded the contract.

"Every possible category was graded down," said the senior council's attorney Shawn Hammond. "We'd like to find out what made the reviewer change his score. Every single category of the Senior Citizens Council was scored down."

Judge Fleming, who ruled last month that there was nothing illegal about the G.A. Foods contract but wouldn't comment on the appropriateness of it, said Wednesday he couldn't imagine scoring something and then going back and changing the scores.

The development center's attorney Tom Harley said the reviewers had asked for additional financial information to evaluate the stability of the bidders.

"One reviewer said he changed his scores after he received the senior center's financial report," Mr. Harley said.

The center's supposed financial instability was a factor in rebidding the contract and awarding it to G.A. Foods, Mr. Harley and development center officials contend.

Mr. Hammond told the judge just because Mr. Harley has an affidavit doesn't mean it is true.

"We dispute it," he said. "We'd like for you to see the scoring."

After the hearing, Ron Schoeffler, the senior center council executive director, said the latest audit, ending June 30, shows the center had its best year ever financially.

"Our income exceeded our expenses for the year significantly," he said. "We provided 480,000 meals during the year, almost a half a million meals. It was the best year ever as far as the nutrition services program was concerned."

The development center rebid the contract to provide meals for seniors in the 14-county area in March and awarded it to G.A. Foods.

Losing the contract has financially crippled the senior center on 15th Street, forcing it to drop nearly every service for senior citizens, but it hasn't put them out of business yet, Dr. Schoeffler said.

"The Senior Citizens Council is still a legal entity," he said. "We are moving forward to investigate new programs and funding opportunities and new ways of continuing to serve seniors in the community.

"We still have a 2,100 square-foot kitchen and a building that we can get up and running on short notice, and we don't see ourselves as being out of business."

The city's recreation department has taken over serving G.A. Foods' meals to seniors who formerly attended the senior center, which will cost Augusta taxpayers between $80,000 and $100,000 more a year for additional staff, according to Tom Beck, the city's recreation and parks director.

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

The Senior Center Council's suit against the Regional Development Center of the CSRA will be back in Richmond County Superior Court next month.