A company that does business at Fort Benning — feeding its legions of soldiers locally and at satellite military locations in Georgia and Florida — has filed notice with the state that it could lay off as many as 850 workers by mid-February as its contract is being rebid.
It follows a state filing a few weeks ago by another post contractor, APTIM Federal Services, that 152 employees had received layoff notices as contracts are being “re-competed” or rebid.
In the latest state notice, L&S Services LLC lists Columbus and Muscogee County in the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) filing that gives a layoff date of Feb. 15 for an estimated 850 workers. But Ben Garrett, chief of public affairs at Fort Benning, confirmed Friday that L&S Services is operating via a federal contract on the installation known as the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence.
Garrett said L&S is a subcontractor for the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency currently responsible for full food-service operations for the 12 dining facilities at Fort Benning, one facility at Camp Frank D. Merrill near the north Georgia community of Dahlonega, and one facility at Camp James E. Rudder at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
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“This contract is in a re-compete status and will not be awarded as previously scheduled, but has been extended until June 30, 2019,” Garrett said. “During the contract selection process, contractors are obligated by the (WARN Act) to inform employees through written notification of a pending expiration. WARN requires that workers be given at least 60 calendar days’ notice of the scheduled closing of a plant or the layoff of 50 or more employees at a single work site.”
Garrett said the L&S employers were informed of the notice of possible layoffs prior to the contract’s extension and there are no plans currently to end the contract before its extended deadline.
L&S Services was launched in 2003 and is affiliated with Smithville, Tenn.-based American Service Contractors, according to the ASC website, which also lists an affiliate named Johnson Food Services as doing business at Fort Jackson, S.C. Calls to the Smithville office were not returned.
“L&S was formed for the purpose of proposing on and subsequently operating the Fort Benning, Georgia, food service contract,” the website says. “It was successful in this endeavor and commenced operations under the contract on August 1, 2003.”
The filing by L&S Services follows that several weeks ago by APTIM, which submitted notice to the Georgia Department of Labor that it would possibly be laying off 152 workers at Fort Benning on Jan. 1 of this year. APTIM also notified the state in late 2017 that it was laying off 175 workers, while TIYA Support Services listed 264 layoffs at the same time.
“TIYA Support Services and its subcontractor, APTIM, managed the most recent contract that covers workers who carry out the post’s day-to-day public works,” Garrett said Friday. “The contract is in a re-compete status and was scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2018, but the Mission and Installation Contracting Command (at) Fort Benning received an approved extension until Feb. 28, 2019.”
Under the government contracts, workers for both companies oversee day-to-day maintenance and repair tasks for Fort Benning’s Directorate of Public Works, the PAO officer said. That includes things such replacing light bulbs, repairing roads and bridges, and keeping the installation’s heating and air condition systems operating.
“Another extension may be required if the (contract) re-compete action is not completed prior to (Feb. 28),” Garrett said. “The contracting officer is taking steps to ensure continuity of services while the new requirement is being evaluated and awarded.”
The flurry of contractor activity and layoff notifications to the state apparently have nothing to do with the current federal government shutdown that President Trump and congressional leaders have been unable to resolve since its start at midnight on Dec. 22, with Garrett saying the post has not been impacted thus far due to existing funding of the U.S. Department of Defense through the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
“The partial government shutdown does not affect Fort Benning,” he said. “Only certain government department and agencies were affected. But since the DoD has been funded for FY19, Fort Benning is not affected.”
Fort Benning and its Maneuver Center of Excellence, which has as its primary mission training Infantry and Armor soldiers, has a $4.8 billion annual financial impact on the Columbus area. That includes a huge payroll that is spent heavily in area retail stores, restaurants, auto dealerships, service businesses and in the real-estate purchase and rental markets.
That money flows from the pockets of 11,000 active-duty soldiers and just under 11,000 government and contract civilians who work on the 182,464-acre installation and live on both sides of the Chattahoochee River, in Georgia and Alabama.
There also are the family members that the military personnel bring with them to Columbus and an estimated 31,000-plus military retirees and their families living in the area and supporting local businesses with their spending dollars.
The post trains nearly 17,000 individuals yearly, with graduations often drawing family members and friends to the city and those visitors staying in hotels and eating out locally.