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Kanawha wants nutrition program for seniors bid out

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County officials want to know -- in writing -- why the state Bureau of Senior Services won't bid out a nutrition program that hasn't been up for bid in 20 years.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper filed a request under the state Freedom of Information Act last week raising questions about why the nutrition program has not been re-bid.

The Putnam Aging Program Inc., which provides services, including a meal program, to senior citizens in Clay, Fayette, Kanawha and Putnam counties, has had the state contract to provide food to area seniors since 1993. But lately, Carper and Kanawha County Commissioners Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores have questioned whether Putnam Aging is providing the best service to Kanawha County's senior centers and senior citizens.

"I find it difficult to understand why, in the biggest county in West Virginia, there's not a private entity or a public organization that can't serve the needs of Kanawha County's senior citizens more efficiently than someone in another county," Carper said Monday.

Although Putnam Aging officials say they have gotten no complaints about food service in Kanawha County, Carper said he has heard complaints about the food at senior centers in Dunbar and Charleston and about long waits to get on Putnam Aging's meal delivery list. He recently sent a letter to Robert Roswall, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, asking that the Kanawha County food program be re-bid.

"They didn't even respond to me," Carper said Monday.

Roswall did not return telephone calls on Monday.

On Friday, Carper sent Roswall a FOIA request. Among the information he requested were:

  • Documents pertaining to the decision by the Bureau of Senior Services to continue a no-bid contract with Putnam Aging for Kanawha County Senior meals versus opening up the contract for bids.
  • Audit results for the last three years for the senior meal program and for Putnam Aging.
  • Documents related to spending federal dollars without bidding.
  • Documents related to the waiting list for lunches for homebound seniors in Kanawha County, including the number of seniors currently on a waiting list and the average time spent on a waiting list.
  • In the FOIA request, Carper also asked about a response to a complaint about service at the East End Family Resource Center in Charleston.

    "I think they're reasonable questions," Carper said. "It is public funds."

    Hardy agrees that 20 years is too long for a government program to go without a competitive bidding process.

    "Three years is too long," he said, adding that Kanawha County re-bids its insurance coverage every two or three years.

    "I can't think of an instance in any case where bidding out a public contract led to a bad result," Hardy said. "It always leads to a good result.

    "What's the worst that could happen?" he said. "The worst that could happen is you find out you've got a good vendor."

    At least one local organization, the Charleston-based social services agency EnAct Inc., has said they would be interested in bidding on the Kanawha County senior nutrition program.

    Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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