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Food bid for nursing home rejected

Cattaraugus County workers can keep their dietary service jobs at the Machias Pines nursing home following action Tuesday night by the County Legislature's Senior Services Committee.

Committee members voted unanimously to reject a vendor's bid to provide meals in the facility at $7.98 per meal, or $22.47 per day. The bid, which was opened Thursday, is 30 cents per meal more than the cost of feeding Machias patients using in-house union employees, according to a union official who attended the meeting.

Nursing homes director John A. Ognibene said the offer was the only bid received. Rob Mueller, Civil Service Employees Association labor relations specialist, said the bid came from Morrison, a Charlotte, N.C.-based subsidiary of the British company Compass Group USA. The firm holds the contract for food service at the county's Olean Pines facility.

Yearly losses of more than $1 million at the county's two Pines nursing homes, and recommendations to consider food service cost-cutting measures, prompted lawmakers to seek bids.

Members of Local 805, CSEA, wrote and called legislators for several weeks, expressing fears their jobs might be eliminated and that the quality of services at the newly constructed Machias Pines might decline in the hands of a private vendor. A large group of dietary workers and concerned citizens attended the committee session in support of CSEA.

"We're obviously thrilled that Machias is staying public," said Mueller after the vote.

Before the vote was taken, Mueller said he asked the lawmakers to take over the dietary operations at the Olean Pines, saying the wages paid to Cattaraugus County workers would remain in the local economy. He cited Morrison's low pay and lack of health insurance benefits make some of Olean Pines' workers eligible for some county services.

The committee voted to accept Morrison's bid to continue dietary services at Olean Pines at a daily cost of $15.72 per patient. That amount is 71 cents less than the county pays in the current contract due to expire Sept. 30. Before the bids were opened, county officials said Morrison's per meal preparation at the Olean Pines cost the county about $5.59.

Also accepted was a $3.45 per-meal bid for preparation of some of the county's senior nutrition program, Meals on Wheels. Morrison did not bid on a separate service for Department of Aging, Mueller said.

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