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STATE COMMITTEE OF VENDORS

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA - MARCH 3 and 4, 2006

Mr. Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 1:15 P.M. on Friday, March 3, 2006. Before asking for the roll call, he requested a report from Susan Johnson, Records Technician, about changes to the procedures by which individuals who incur travel expenses are reimbursed by the State. Ms. Johnson explained that all travel must be pre-authorized and that the traveler must submit an itinerary including date of departure, mode of transportation, place of departure and the same return details three (3) weeks before the scheduled meeting. She has developed a form for this, written in MS Word, and can transmit it by email. The traveler has the option of declining to request reimbursement if the paperwork is too burdensome. The deadline for filing the reimbursement request must be met or it will be denied. Ms. Johnson also said that she has contingency plans for dealing with emergencies that prevent timely filing.

Mr. Spiliotis asked the Vice-Chair to call the roll.

  • District 1 - Steve Schneider
  • District 2 - Kathy Graham
  • District 3 - Don Tuell
  • District 4 - Victor Rosario
  • District 5 - Phil Bluschke
  • District 6 - Jim Anderson
  • District 7 - Tom Saunders, Alternate
  • District 8 - Gyorke Alger, Alternate
  • Chuck Fickett arrived at approximately 4 P.M.
  • District 9 - Joel Rose
  • District 10 - Lonnie Wilcox
  • Tom Spiliotis, Chairperson, John Klindtworth, Vice-Chairperson
  • Agency staff - Craig Kiser, Director; Mike Elliott, Bureau Chief; Gene Newcomb, Compliance Director; Susan Johnson, Records Technician; Larry Batterton, General Services Specialist
  • Guests - Charles and Donna Hackney; Mark Turner; Terry Mitchell; Sue Mosier; Kenny Davis; John and Marilyn Kalivoda

Mr. Kiser presented his report. He has retained the services of Mr. Bill Hebroch as a consultant for new facility development. Meetings have been held with the Florida Department of Corrections and Mr. Kiser will meet with them in the near future. The possibility of opening new FCI facilities looks promising.

He also will meet with the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation to explore opportunities for vending and gift shops at State Parks. Many of these are under private contract and it is expected that the DER would hesitate to cancel those contracts, but we might have the opportunity to bid for them when they are up for renewal.

Other venues under investigation for expansion of the BEP include sports facilities, properties leased by the State and subcontractors to State agencies, such as Childnet, a subcontractor to the Department of Children and Families. Universities and community colleges are also considered good possibilities for new facilities.

Ms. Alger suggested that theme parks could be good opportunities for vending locations. Mr. Kiser agreed that the idea is worth looking into.

Mr. Kiser met with an official from the Department of Management Services who wants to look into holding negotiations with either Coke or Pepsi for an exclusive soda contract in State buildings. Mr. Kiser explained to the DMS representative that DBS cannot force the vendors to accept any such agreement, but that if DMS wants to pursue this he will present their proposal to us. He added that DMS is interested mainly in price reductions for the employees in State buildings.

Mr. Spiliotis said that the South Carolina BEP has an exclusive contract with Pepsi for all highway vending. General agreement was expressed that an exclusive contract for highway vending could be beneficial, but that in office buildings with a fixed customer base it is usually not a good idea. Mr. Spiliotis then stated that if we decide to enter into any negotiations with either Pepsi or Coke that we must do so with solidarity and not allow everyone in the State to try to make private deals.

Mr. Kiser reported that he has developed a new strategic plan for DBS, including the BEP. Goals for DBS and BEP include increasing customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, our market share and the return on DBS investment. The Division will focus on outreach, to find and assist the many blind people who are not receiving services.

Mr. Kiser has also begun meeting with the staff in all District offices to increase their awareness of the BEP, encouraging them to not only seek new recruits but also to help in the search for new locations.

The need to recruit for success was stressed. Vocational aptitude testing needs to be done. The training staff at Daytona must understand that part of their job is to weed out individuals who are failing, not to pass them on to OJT. Mr. Schneider mentioned that when he visited the training center he learned that Steve Moss was allowing students to take the final test more than three times. He believes this has been corrected.

Mr. Elliott announced his intent to begin revoking the license of vendors whose LOFAs are cancelled on three different occasions. Several members of the Committee suggested that two LOFA cancellations were sufficient to justify license revocation.

Mr. Schneider cited the real need for better follow-up with new licensees in their first management position.

Mr. Spiliotis asked if down time between the end of training and taking a LOFA could be a contributing factor to failure. General agreement that this is very likely was expressed. Mr. Elliott agreed and added that he and Kathy Murphey are working toward requiring new licensees to either accept employment in a BEP facility or take a limited LOFA in a small facility. Mr. Wilcox stated that better teamwork between the Consultants and managers is needed.

Terry Mitchell enumerated several shortfalls in the training at Daytona, including the lack of computer training. Mr. Spiliotis spoke again about the need for training the trainers and establishing consistency in all phases of training across the State. Mr. Elliott informed the Committee that at this time trainees are not required to work in the Daytona snack bar, that it is optional. The Committee believes this policy should be revisited.

Mr. Wilcox asked about the availability of the Double Talk voice synthesizer that reads the display on all vending machines. Most vendors do not have this, nor is it being used in training at Daytona. The cost of the unit is $250. Several members felt that this should be available on all machines.

Mr. Elliott asked to be advised as to who is responsible for recording the minutes, the Agency or the Committee. He asked for a motion to settle the question. Mr. Tuell moved to appoint Ms. Alger as Secretary. Mr. Bluschke seconded the motion, which carried by unanimous voice vote. Ms. Alger continued taking notes.

Mr. Tuell expressed appreciation to the trainees and new licensees for attending our meeting and giving us their input. Speaking for the entire Committee, he wished them great success, and reminded them that it comes only with hard work.

Mr. Elliott reported that Kathy Murpheys recent surgery went well and that she is recovering at home, staying in close contact with the office by telephone and email. Cards can be sent to the BEP office.

Mr. Spiliotis asked that the Agency staff work toward putting trainees and new vendors in touch with a greater variety of vendors so that we can help them achieve success.

Mr. Newcomb was asked for his report. He presented a draft letter to inform people who have not filed their travel reimbursement requests in a timely manner that they are in material breach of LOFA and that if the request is not received within a specified time their LOFa will be cancelled. Mr. Spiliotis voiced strenuous opposition to this proposal, stating that members of the Committee and its auxiliary bodies are volunteers, giving their time on behalf of the program. Another member mentioned that such a penalty was extremely harsh in view of the fact that multiple late reports are often ignored. Mr. Elliott and Mr. Spiliotis agreed that it would be better to refuse reimbursement to those who fail to comply with the deadline. Mr. Spiliotis asked for a motion. Mr. Saunders moved that reimbursement be refused if the request is not submitted within 30 calendar days of the last day of travel. Mr. Rose seconded. With nine votes in favor and one abstention, the motion carried.

Mr. Newcomb presented a new version of the business opportunity application form. It has been simplified and makes it clear to applicants that it is their responsibility to initiate any background checks, drug screening etc. required by the host Agency. He stated that DBS has no statutory authority to collect this type of information. The new form also contains a release of pertinent information to the Selection Panel,

This prompted a discussion of the Florida Sunshine law as it applies to the BEP selection process. Mr. Fickett sated that he opposes the application of Sunshine to the process. Mr. Elliott believes we should hire a lobbyist to try to persuade the State Legislature to grant an exemption.

Mr. Spiliotis informed the Committee and Mr. Elliott that he has consulted with Bob Humphreys, a well-known Randolph-Sheppard attorney, and that he believes the Code of Federal Regulations trumps Sunshine because BEP facilities are federally mandated employment opportunities and therefore fall under the same confidentiality requirements of other State positions. He also stated that the current policy of allowing everyone to sit in on the interviews is absurd, that it is inherently unfair to all applicants. The Transfer and Promotion subcommittee has proposed that this open interview be eliminated and if the Committee approves the proposal it will most likely be challenged. Mr. Spiliotis said he would welcome such a challenge, that he believes we would prevail.

He then suggested that the Division consider releasing funds from management services to help pay for legal expenses that may be incurred.

Mr. Newcomb suggested hiring a consultant and requesting an opinion from the State Attorney General. Other possibilities discussed were taking the issue to Federal District Court or back to the Department of Administrative Hearings with full information about the Federal nature of the BEP.

The next item was a brief review of the subcommittee telemeeting system implemented in January. Mr. Spiliotis stressed the newness of this initiative, saying that even though some meetings have not taken place as scheduled we need to take it easy on our colleagues and refrain from attacking them in public. We need to work together and treat one another with respect.

Mr. Spiliotis asked for the Transfer and Promotion subcommittee report. Ms. Alger and Mr. Newcomb took turns reading the lengthy document that the subcommittee has developed and that will be voted on in a teleconference meeting scheduled for March 30. Several amendments were offered and voted upon, and several sections were approved as written.

Mr. Fickett moved to delete the clause in Section 4 that would allow testing to be rescheduled for a later date if the applicant convinced the Bureau Chief that he or she could not attend the original testing date. Mr. Wilcox seconded and the motion carried by unanimous roll call vote.

Mr. Saunders moved to revise the scoring method in Section 7 to require that point subtractions be taken from that section rather than from the overall score. Mr. Rose seconded and the motion carried by voice vote with no objections.

Mr. Newcomb suggested that the pro-rated scoring for applicants with less than 36 months experience be moved to the top of Section 7, all agreed and it was done.

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 P.M. and was reconvened by Mr. Spiliotis at 9:10 A.M on Saturday, March 4, 2006.

Mr. Klindtworth called the roll.

  • District 1 - Steve Schneider
  • District 2 - Kathy Graham
  • District 3 - Don Tuell
  • District 4 - Victor Rosario
  • District 5 - Phil Bluschke
  • District 6 - Jim Anderson
  • District 7 - Tom Saunders
  • District 8 - Chuck Fickett
  • District 9 - Joel Rose
  • District 10 - Lonnie Wilcox
  • Chairperson, Tom Spiliotis; Vice-Chairperson, John Klindtworth; Secretary, Gyorke Alger
  • Agency staff - Bureau Chief, Mike Elliott; Compliance Director, Gene Newcomb; General Services Specialist, Larry Batterton
  • Guests - Charles and Donna Hackney; Elizabeth Wilcox; Valerie James; Mark Turner; John and Marilyn Kalivoda; Pat Talbert; Georgia Kellogg; Mike Macomber, representing Aramatic

Discussion of the Transfer and Promotion subcommittees proposal resumed.

The item in Section 7 proposing a point value for meeting net profit expectations was discussed at length and several modifications were suggested. This item was tabled to the March 30 teleconference meeting.

Mr. Rose and Mr. Wilcox objected to the increase from two to five points for the penalty incurred by vendors required to pay set aside by money order or cashiers check. Mr. Schneider said that vendors need to be held accountable, and added that if the vendor had not been at fault when a set aside check was returned by the bank there should be no penalty. Mr. Newcomb advised that this is the Agencys practice.

Ms. Alger explained that the increase was in response to a consensus reached by the previous Committee.

Mr. Schneider moved to retain the five-point penalty, Mr. Bluschke seconded and the motion carried by roll call vote.

The next item discussed was the four point cap for experience credit, a reduction from the current nine points. Mr. Newcomb suggested it be raised to ten points and Ms. Alger explained that this would throw the twenty-five percent weighting of the performance review out of kilter and added that the subcommittee had tried to keep the math as simple as possible.

Mr. Schneider questioned how a vendor whose LOFA has been cancelled gets back in good standing. Several ideas were offered. Mr. Klindtworth reported that that there is a new imitative that would require successful retraining for vendors when their LOFA is cancelled for breach. Mr. Newcomb suggested that this could be expanded to include suspension of license, thereby allowing a relicensed vendor to compete on the same basis as one with less than thirty-six months experience.

Mr. Saunders moved to adopt the same conditions for suspension of license as apply to LOFA cancellation. Mr. Rosario seconded. With one abstention the motion carried by roll call vote.

Item 10, the newly inserted privacy clause, was approved by voice vote with no objection.

The proposal to revise the interview format was discussed. Mr. Spiliotis said that after conversation with current Selection Panel members, he had concluded that although the present fifteen-minute presentation scored between zero and twenty-five points is unworkable, a hybrid of presentation and questions formulated by the Panel should be adopted. As a result of the presentation, which places the entire responsibility on the applicant, the level of professionalism has improved. It was agreed that applicants need to be asked questions that require thoughtful answers.

This item was approved by unanimous voice vote.

Mr. Spiliotis announced that the Committee would take a recess from the Transfer and Promotion discussion and introduced Ms. Jane Johnson, the Director of FAAST (Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology). The company was founded in 1992 through a Federal grant and became a non-profit corporation in 1997. Mr. Elliott is a member of its board of Directors. There are five regional centers in Florida, located in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami.

FAAST offers a variety of services and products to people with disabilities. These include demonstrations of assistive software and other technologies at no charge to the consumer, a device loan program that allows the consumer to take an assistive device home on a trial basis, a web based online device exchange service, guarantor of loans for people with credit problems, alternative financing up to $20,000 to meet assistive needs not covered by the State, and loans for home based businesses. Many other services are also offered. Ms. Johnson left several copies of FAAST Access, their quarterly magazine. Ms. Alger retained these for anyone who would like a copy.

Mr. Schneider was asked to present the report of the Training and Retraining subcommittee. He began his report by reminding the Committee that DBS is a member of the Florida Restaurant Association, which entitles any vendor to an individual membership at $75 per year. He then thanked the subcommittee members, Phil Bluschke and Victor Rosario, for their interest and participation.

He stated that identifying problems in our training system was easy, but that correcting them will take time and patience. Several problems identified were the complete lack or retraining when a manager is removed from a facility; trainees in OJT spending six months washing dishes; unqualified and untrained trainers; poor communication between all parties involved with a trainee; no support system for managers in the field.

The subcommittee and Kathy Murphey are working closely together with active involvement from Mr. Elliott and Mr. Kiser. Ms. Murphey has identified three qualified trainers, Debbie Hietela, Jim Gaudette and Sean Flynn. Mr. Schneider is also qualified as a trainer.

Aramatic is also playing an active role in field training, currently working with two persons, one a trainee and the other a licensee receiving additional training.

The Subcommittee and Ms. Murphey have visited the training center in Daytona and will do so in the future whenever necessary. They learned that Steve Moss believed it was his job to pass every trainee through, regardless of aptitude or performance. The Agency leadership was unaware of this. Mr. Elliott stated that it has been clarified that the training staff can and should fail trainees who are not performing according to standards set by the Agency.

Mr. Elliott added that BEP provides laptops for individuals in training and that when they become licensed and are placed in a BEP facility the Agency will purchase a laptop for them.

Another initiative will be to develop standard forms for business tracking. These forms will be taught in Daytona, the field trainers will learn them and continue their use in OJT.

Mr. Elliott will follow up on seeing to it that trainees receive BEP specific computer training. The Daytona staff is developing weekly training outlines for use by OJT trainers. These will establish minimum standards of performance that must be met by the trainee.

Mr. Rosario will act as the liaison between the training subcommittee and OJT trainers to establish continuity and a free flow of information. Mr. Bluschke will be the liaison between the OJT trainers and the Daytona staff. The subcommittee will also work to improve communication with Client Services.

All parties involved with training will begin the development of a comprehensive training manual. Another goal is to establish a system whereby a designated point person will work with and mentor every trainee from recruitment through all phases of training and continue through the trainees placement in a BEP facility.

Mr. Spiliotis complimented Mr. Schneider on his efforts and the progress made to date. He then introduced the concept of concentrating OJT at a single location in Tallahassee. This would require the hiring of a full-time manager to oversee all field training. Mr. Schneider said that the subcommittee had discussed this idea prior to the Committee meeting and agrees that it should be pursued. The facility would need to be large enough to accommodate several trainees at the same time, and a BEP facility might not be the best venue.

Mr. Schneider then introduced Mike Macomber from Aramatic Food Service. Mr. Macomber presented a brief overview of how Aramatic participates in BEP training here and in other States. Their weekly evaluation reports are sent to Ms. Murphey, Mr. Schneider, the trainee and his counselor. Mr. Saunders request that an email copy of Aramatics training syllabus be sent to all committee members, this has been done.

Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Macomber to consult with Mr. Kiser and try to establish a BEP training facility as soon as possible. The likeliest location for the short term is the Claude Pepper Building, which is not scheduled to be advertised in the next posting of business opportunities. He stated that when the Capitol Circle facility becomes available it would be the ideal location for a permanent field training facility and that perhaps Mr. Schneider might be interested in taking the position of full-time trainer. Mr. Schneider responded that we need to develop a comprehensive plan for this initiative. He again stressed the valuable services provided by Aramatic, both in managing facilities we are unable to staff and in the training program. Our five-year contract is up for renewal in 2008 and can be amended at any time to include additional services. Mr. Elliott said that he has funding flexibility that he can use to enhance and speed up any changes required to improve our training services. Mr. Elliott then asked if the VIVA fund held by the committee could provide short-term loans to help trainees with moving expenses until the BEP funds come through. Mr. Spiliotis said this could be done.

After a short recess and relocation to another room, Mr. Spiliotis reconvened the meeting at 12:30 P.M.

The Transfer and Promotion report resumed, with further discussion of elements being proposed. The final vote was tabled to the newly scheduled teleconference meeting that will take place on March 30.

Mr. Rose presented the report of the Marketing and Merchandising subcommittee, comprised of himself, Mr. Tuell, Mr. Spiliotis and Ms. Graham.

He proposes to produce two short films, one for trainees and one to market the BEP to potential customers. The first film will be distributed to district offices and will provide both counselors and potential BEP recruits a comprehensive description of the Program, including what an individual needs to do to become a successful vendor. The marketing film will emphasize that the BEP manager is fully responsible for all operations in the facility.

Mr. Elliott stated that the Agency supports this initiative that funding is available, some research has already been done and that Mr. Rose and Mr. Newcomb will spearhead the project.

Mr. Tuell reported for the Facility Development Subcommittee. He has made some initial contacts, but nothing solid has materialized to date. Mr. Fickett asked to be appointed to the s\Subcommittee and Mr. Spiliotis did so.

Mr. Spiliotis spoke of the need for better oversight by the Committee and Agency staff when decisions are being made re the combining, enlarging and attaching of facilities. This includes the development of new vending routes.

Mr. Spiliotis called for the round table discussion.

Mr. Schneider reported that the only problem he is aware of in District 1 is that the washers and dryers in the FCI laundry are wearing out. Mr. Spiliotis observed that we should monitor the life span and cost of maintaining equipment and analyze that cost versus return.

Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 reported that all is well.

Mr. Saunders from District 7 reported that we lost Facility #113, the Pinellas County Courthouse cafeteria last year when the County decided to engage the services of Natures Table, a private company. Mr. Elliott indicated that he believes there is a good chance we will regain this contract.

Mr. Fickett report that a potential problem has arisen in District 8. Construction on the new Justice Center building is eight months ahead of schedule and they want Mike Pierce out of the old building and into the new one as soon as possible. This development understandably caught the Agency by surprise and Mr. Elliott explained that he could not predict how soon the purchase orders for new equipment will be processed. Mr. Spiliotis asked if the Agency could buy used equipment. Mr. Elliott replied that he was not sure but it might be possible.

Mr. Fickett also reported that the food service facility in the Bradenton County Courthouse has been closed by the County and that the manager, Ed Harper, was displaced. Mr. Elliott indicated that he will be given an administrative appointment.

Mr. Rose reported on problems in District 9. The Snack Bar in Ft. Lauderdale originally scheduled for closure was kept open. The first manager left it in deplorable condition and the new manager declined to go in until it was cleaned up. Building management took on the cleaning and fumigation required for reopening the facility.

Mr. Rose reintroduced his request to combine the two facilities he now manages into one route. These are the IRS vending route and the machines in the Post Office. He stated that two buildings on the IRS have been closed, that another is scheduled to close and that he is losing some machines in another building. He said that the Post Office has no storage and for these reasons, the two facilities should be combined.

Mr. Elliott responded by saying that he had intended to recommend keeping the two facilities separate, but had not received the information presented by Mr. Rose. He asked the Committee to table this item to the May meeting to give him time to verify and evaluate this new information. The Committee agreed.

Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Elliott to remove the Jacksonville Electrical Authority, a new vending location, from the April availabilities posting, stating that it was placed on a 6-month LOFA to determine its viability and that, as the LOFA is only three months old there is insufficient data to determine if this can be a stand-alone facility. Mr. Elliott agreed and directed Mr. Newcomb to remove the JEA from the April listing.

Mr. Wilcox reported for District 10. The KROME facility has reopened but the AMC Post Office is still closed as a result of last years hurricane damage. A Miami vendors LOFA has been cancelled for breach. Teamwork with the Consultant is improving. Some new Postal locations may become available, but there is no timetable yet.

Mr. Fickett brought up another situation in District 8 involving the new airport vending facility. The machines were purchased from Crane National and they contracted with Cadillac Vending, our competitor, for delivery and set-up. That company used this as an opportunity to secure the vending in other parts of the airport. Mr. Spiliotis agreed that this is a problem and we should find a way to solve it.

Georgia Kellogg asked how one goes about finding out what DOT is doing about remodeling and/or closing highway rest stops. The answer was that one does not, DOT does as it pleases.

Mr. Spiliotis adjourned the meeting at 1:30 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,

Gyorke Alger, Secretary

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

Providing Tools and Support for Legally Blind Vendors in the Food Service Industry