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STATE COMMITTEE OF VENDORS

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MAY 19 - 20, 2006

Mr. Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 1:30 P.M. on Friday, May 19, 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 - Paul Prescott
  • District 8 - Chuck Fickett
  • District 9 - Joel Rose
  • District 10 - Lonnie Wilcox

Tom Spiliotis, Chairman; John Klindtworth, Vice-Chair: Gyorke Alger, Secretary

Agency staff: Mike Elliott; Gene Newcomb; Larry Batterton; Raquel Falero

Guests: Dave Kaplan; Elizabeth Wilcox; Bonnie Prescott; John and Marilyn Kalivoda; Mark Turner; Cheryl Rose; Nancy Spiliotis; Mike Macomber (Aramatic)

Individuals with presentations for the committee were Kevin Wise and Alan Frank from Red Bull; Greg Simmons, CEO of Simmons Productions; Emily Leventhal and Janice Foley from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA)

Mr. Wise and Mr. Frank gave a sale presentation about the Red Bull energy drink, citing a great deal of statistical information. Each member of the Committee received a large-print copy of all information to take back to his or her districts. Mr. Rose suggested that the company develop and submit a package proposal to the Committee, to include pricing, repair service options and vending machine purchase options.

Emily Leventhal and her colleague from OPPAGA addressed the Committee. Ms. Foley explained that this is a group formed by the State Legislature to evaluate programs administered by State Agencies. The Legislature has requested OPPAGA to analyze and evaluate the BEP. Their survey has been underway for about two months and to date they have contacted about nine vendors. The survey will include vendors with many years of experience, those who are new in the program, and those in different types of facilities.

Mr. Elliott asked if OPPAGAs scrutiny of the BEP was in any way related to the attacks on the Randolph-Sheppard Program currently going on at the national level. Ms. Foley stated that she thought not, but believed it has more to do with the bad press our program received last year in Tallahassee. Several of the cafeteria operations in the State Capitol have had numerous problems, including a frequent turnover in management.

Mr. Spiliotis spoke at length about the benefits afforded to blind people by the Business Enterprise program, stating that without this kind of opportunity most of us would be under-employed and living below the poverty level. It is because of this program that we are able to realize our potential and become tax-paying citizens rather than welfare recipients. He acknowledged that there are problems in the program, as in any other government program, but that our goal is and always has been to find solutions to those problems.

Ms. Foley and Dr. Leventhal stated that they would welcome input from vendors and gave permission for their contact information to be provided to any vendor who wishes to speak to them. Please contact the Committee Secretary if you would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

Mr. Elliott announced that the Director is back at work full-time. Ms. Murphey is expected to return to work by June 1st and a full recovery is anticipated.

Mr. Elliott reported that he and Mr. Newcomb attended a conference in Maryland last week and that the U.S. Senate is looking into the possibility of adding other disability groups to the Randolph-Sheppard program. The reasons cited are too few vendors, too few facilities and too few disabled employees. Mr. Elliott believes that the money we earn as independent contractors is the real issue. He also cited the fact that NISH is not happy with Randolph-Sheppard vendors moving into military facilities, even though the law gives us a clear priority. He mentioned a possible new venue for BEP, that being the employee cafeterias in State prisons. The possibility of using visually impaired inmates as cafeteria employees was raised. Mr. Spiliotis opined that we should go after visiting area vending, that it is far more profitable than employee only areas.

Aramatic is currently operating three BEP facilities in Tallahassee, all of which are on the current availabilities posting. Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Newcomb if any of the applicants for these locations has the experience and skill level needed to successfully manage them. Mr. Newcomb responded that none of the applicants has long records of accomplishment with BEP but that they may have life skills and/or previous experience of which the Agency is unaware.

Mr. Newcomb reported that the Selection Panel would meet on Tuesday, May 23rd to develop interview questions and discuss procedures. All BEP consultants will be available by telephone to provide the Panel with information about the facilities on the bid list. Mr. Newcomb also expressed his appreciation for the procedural improvements that will be implemented with this selection round.

Mr. Batterton announced that on May 31st he would be leaving the BEP to work in the VR sector of the Division. Mr. Elliott, Mr. Newcomb and the Committee expressed their thanks to Larry for his many years of service to our program.

Mr. Newcomb reported on several legislative budget increases, including mileage and travel expenses.

Mr. Elliott reported that the Legislature passed the Electronic Information Accessibility for people with disabilities act, but in a watered down version. The myflorida.com website is not fully JAWS accessible.

Mr. Newcomb presented proposals for upgrading the testing requirements of BEP training as follows:

1. The test for each training component may only be taken twice instead of the current three times. The retest will be administered with three days of failing the first time. If the trainee fails the component test a second time, he will be removed from the BEP training program.

A caveat to the above is that the trainee has the option to petition Mr. Newcomb for a third retest. Mr. Newcomb will make these determinations on a case-by-case basis, that being what is best for the trainee.

Mr. Schneider requested that the Training subcommittee be involved in the re-evaluation of trainees in order to increase vendor participation in the training program. Mr. Newcomb agreed.

2. The passing score for the component tests will be raised from 70% to 75%.

Mr. Schneider moved to accept the Agencys proposals. Mr. Rose seconded the motion, which carried by unanimous roll call vote.

Mr. Anderson inquired about the status of Patrick Air Force Base, which has been in limbo for about three years. Mr. Elliott mentioned several problems, including lack of BEP staff and changes in base command. Mr. Spiliotis stated that we might have erred in pursuing the mass feeding contract, as we are much better at vending. Mr. Elliott will work on this when Ms. Murphey returns.

Mr. Wilcox asked about the vending at the Federal Building in Miami. BEP turned down the cafeteria but not the vending. Mr. Elliott said that he would get involved in this project.

Mr. Newcomb reported that the campaign to recoup monies from vendors who owe a debt to the Division is working. Individuals who refuse or decline to repay a debt will have their license revoked. The Committee expressed full support for this approach.

Mr. Newcomb reported that a vendor who has had three consecutive LOFAs cancelled for failure to provide adequate service has had his license revoked and has grieved the revocation. The Grievance Board will be convened.

Mr. Spiliotis asked if there was any old business. Mr. Roses proposal to combine facilities 501 and 515 was tabled from the March meeting because of insufficient information. Mr. Batterton gave each Committee member a spreadsheet showing what he believed to be the correct sales information. However, through some oversight, the sales figures for facility 515 were actually those for 511, a rest stop on I-75. Mr. Rose had the correct data with him. After discussion of the sales and other relevant factors, it appeared that neither location could function as a successful stand-alone facility. Mr. Fickett moved to combine them. Mr. Schneider seconded the motion which carried by unanimous roll call vote. Mr. Elliott accepted the Committees recommendation.

Mr. Spiliotis asked for a report from the Training and Retraining subcommittee. Mr. Schneider said that because of Ms. Murpheys absence little has been done. He pointed out that this is an area requiring equal participation by vendors and Agency staff.

There are currently three people in the final phase of OJT; they should be ready for licensure soon.

Mr. Schneider asked Mr. Bluschke to remain in active contact with the training staff in Daytona.

The training proposal submitted by Aramatic was discussed. The Agency has rejected it as too costly. Mr. Elliott gave the basic numbers as a flat fee of $11,500 per month and an additional $3,000 per month for each trainee. He stated that when asked for a revised proposal, Aramatic responded with a justification of the original proposal.

Mr. Schneider presented a new idea for discussion. He suggested that in the event the DOE cafeteria is not awarded in the current selection round that he continue to manage the location and use it as a pilot in a new way of completing the training process. The Regional Consultant would assess a new licensee or one who has been awarded a fist location to determine if additional training as an employee in a smoothly functioning facility would enhance the individuals chance of achieving success. This could also include facilities where the current manager has accepted another location but agrees to stay for a specified length of time to ensure the new manager knows how the facility works. This would help to make the transition as seamless and transparent as possible. This approach would have to be very flexible and the Consultant would be needed as an active participant.

A suggestion was made to create a new staff position, that being one point person, a Transition consultant.

This type of transition approach might be useful in helping new managers realize that their job is not to re-invent the wheel when they sign the LOFA. This is an ongoing problem in the program.

Mr. Spiliotis brought up an idea discussed many times in past years that a new manager should be required to stay in the facility for a specified period. This would alleviate the complaints of frequent manager turnover and allow new managers to hone their skills before seeking upward mobility.

Mr. Spiliotis also suggested revising the selection criteria for different types of facilities, along the lines of the cafeteria and vending certification required in previous years. Mr. Newcomb suggested that a subcommittee develop a manual for the operation of each type of BEP facility. Mr. Spiliotis handed this to the Policy Development subcommittee, which will work closely with the Training Subcommittee.

Mr. Spiliotis recessed the meeting at 5:15 P.M. and advised that the Saturday session would begin at 8:30 A.M.

Mr. Spiliotis reconvened the meeting at 8:35 A.M. on Saturday, May 20th. He asked those present to observe a moment of silence in memory of Gail Kiser, Hiram Escobar and Ed Harper.

Mr. Klindtworth called the roll. All Committee reps, Agency staff and guests from the previous day attended.

The Secretary requested a motion to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Mr. Wilcox moved to do so. Mr. Rose seconded the motion which carried by unanimous voice vote.

Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Rose for a report on the BEP marketing film project. Mr. Rose explained that he had contacted several film production companies in South Florida and that based on quality of product and cost, the leading contender is Simmons Productions. He then turned the presentation over to Gary Simmons, the CEO of the company.

Mr. Simmons told the Committee that his company has been in business since 1984. They produce all types of business advertising and marketing films and videos. The company has full capacity,, including actors, narrators, duplication and replication capacity and that everything is done in house with no need for outsourcing. He described in detail the interactive process from first contact with a client through all stages of production. In response to Mr. Spiliotiss statement that the content could not be too specific because of the evolving nature of our program, Mr. Simmons assured the Committee that his company has full editing capability and that changes are easily made.

Mr. Prescott asked about the possibility of producing 30-second PSA spots and Mr. Simmons assured him that this is very workable.

Mr. Newcomb asked who retains ownership of the finished product. Mr. Simmons replied that DBS owns it and that there are no copyright problems involved.

Mr. Simmons showed the Committee a demo video demonstrating numerous clips of their productions.

Mr. Elliott stated that the division intends to go forward with this project and that we must comply with all elements of the State bid process. We will need two additional presentations from competitive bidders. Mr. Rose will secure these and they will be scheduled for the August meeting.

Mr. Spiliotis asked Ms. Alger for a report from the Transfer & Promotion subcommittee. She stated that no changes in the process are being recommended at this time, but that the subcommittee would like to change the method by which the Selection Panel reports to the committee. The subcommittee would like to eliminate the requirement that the Panel prepare a written report after each selection round and instead hold a joint teleconference between the panelists and the subcommittee. Mr. Newcomb stated his full support of this change and will set it up. The Committee voiced general agreement.

Mr. Newcomb reported on the current selection round. Two test questions were discarded as poorly written and the scores were pro-rated. Because of time constraints, the test used this time did not include either material from the Crane National Coffee Manual or any business math questions. The Committee expressed understanding of the situation and confidence that by the next selection round these elements will be incorporated into the test. Mr. Newcomb has the interview schedule set for the week of May 22nd. The component requiring verification of test and performance data scores by the Selection Panel will be implemented with the July selection cycle.

The Committee resumed discussion of training and retraining. Mr. Schneider reported that there are currently two active OJT trainers, Debbie Hietela in Tampa and Sean Flynn in Jacksonville. When Jim Gaudette completes the transition to the Coleman FCI facility, he will no longer be able to serve as a trainer. Mr. Newcomb added that Ms. Murphey had also approved Mr. David Harbach in Jacksonville as a trainer.

Mr. Spiliotis stated that there should be one person who will act as a contact between trainees, trainers, the training subcommittee and Agency staff. The trainee would be able to contact that person to discuss any problems or issues and be assured they would be brought to the right people. Mr. Tuell volunteered for this position. Mr. Schneider agreed that this is a good idea and will follow up with Mr. Tuell.

Mr. Elliott reported that the Agency has ordered 100 units of the Double Talk synthesizer that allows a blind person to access all readouts on Crane and AP vendors. The Committee will receive an email when they are in stock. They are available on request through the Consultants or directly through the Tallahassee office. Mr. Elliott will find out if this device can be used on Coke, Pepsi and Fastcorp vendors.

Mr. Elliott also reported that all trainees are now provided with a laptop during their time at Daytona. The Division will purchase them a laptop when they are appointed to their first facility.

Mr. Tuell, reporting for the Facility Development subcommittee, stated that officials in West Palm Beach County had told him that DBS did not respond to the invitation to bid on the contract in the Administrative Services Building. Mr. Elliott clarified by saying that the Division did respond and that it declined to enter a bid based on the cost of the project and the short term of the contract being offered. It was mentioned that we need to revisit the possibilities with the VA; they have historically resisted Randolph-Sheppard participation. We will need to keep updated on the various lawsuits in progress.

Mr. Wilcox reported that we have a new postal contract in Pompano Beach. Mr. Spiliotis asked if the Division is insisting on having storage in new postal facilities.

Mr. Wilcox brought up the possibility of bidding on the contract for vending at the University of Miami, a private college that is in a new facility. Mr. Elliott expressed doubt that we would be successful in this effort, to which Mr. Wilcox responded that we had the vending when the university was in its old building. Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Wilcox to follow up on this initiative, stating that if we are successful it could help us in our efforts to gain access to vending in State universities and junior colleges. He encouraged all Committee Reps to investigate and pursue new opportunities in their districts.

Mr. Spiliotis then asked how the new system of subcommittee meetings by teleconference is working. Mr. Schneider said that only he and Mike Macomber from Aramatic called in for the recent training conference. Mr. Spiliotis suggested that we keep the schedule in place and ask each subcommittee chairperson to notify Mr. Newcomb if there is no business to be discussed so that the cancellation notice can be posted to the BEP website. He also suggested posting a reminder notice to the vendtalk list so that interested persons can call in or find out if the meeting would take place.

The Audit and Budget subcommittee has no meetings scheduled for the second quarter. When Ms. Murphey returns and information becomes available the subcommittee will resume meeting in the third and fourth quarters.

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION

Mr. Wilcox stated that Richard Baugh, the new manager at the State Regional Center in Miami, is unhappy because there is no hood system. Mr. Elliott replied that the Agency will not replace that system again and informed the Committee that the cost of replacement is $180,000. The Agency will purchase a Perfect Fry system for the location.

Mr. Wilcox reported that the vending facility at the Southern Command in Miami is not doing well and that if it is not awarded in the current selection cycle it should be combined with another facility. The reasons for its poor performance include lack of storage space, limited hours of access imposed by the host Agency and the fact that the machines are spread out and require more time to fill than is allowed.

The vending facility offered at $6,000 in annual sales on the previous bid list was not accepted. The Agency has determined that it is not a viable location and is looking into the possibility of attaching it to the Patrick Air Force Base vending.

Mr. Fickett mentioned another new facility that is on the current bid list, the vending at the Ft. Myers airport. The location is still under development, has no storage and requires a lot of walking to service the machines. He believes that at this time it is not a viable stand-alone facility.

Mr. Spiliotis stated that we need to develop realistic criteria for development of facilities. Mr. Elliott agreed and this was referred to the Policy subcommittee. The subcommittee will develop criteria for combining facilities, attaching small operations to existing ones, developing new facilities and setting time lengths for limited LOFAs.

Mr. Prescott reported that the DOT might decide to close one of three rest areas in district 7. Those under consideration are the two in Zephyr Hills and his in Ruskin. He stressed that no decision has been made and that DOT moves slowly.

Mr. Elliott has been contacted by the Postal Distribution Center in Tampa and we may regain that location.

Mr. Rosario reported that the Jacksonville Postal route is losing a significant percentage of it sales because of building closures. He also reported that the new manager in the Orlando regional Center is doing very well.

Mr. Schneider asked if Aramatic has submitted recommendations about the food service operations in Tallahassee. Mr. Elliott replied that they have not, and that the Agency would need to provide the criteria upon which such recommendations would be made. He pointed out that we do not have the option of closing cafeterias and snack bars in Tallahassee. If an Agency director calls Mr. Kiser and protests going to full vending the plan is dropped.

Ms. Graham relayed the rumor that Barneys Coffee has been bought out by Starbucks.

Mr. Fickett reported that good progress is being made at the new Justice Center Cafeteria in spite of the fact that the host Agency is eight months ahead of schedule. He also recommended that if the new airport vending facility is not awarded that it be attached to the vending facility at the Ft. Myers Post Office. There is a possibility of getting concourse vending but the lack of storage would make it very difficult to manage.

Mr. Spiliotis mentioned the idea of using portable storage units. In some locations, this might work, but security concerns would prevent it in many locations.

Mr. Rose reported that a new VA building is opening in District 9, but does not have an opening date. Mr. Elliott requested that when this type of information becomes known that it be reported directly to the Bureau office.

Mr. Rose raised a question concerning reimbursement for repairs done by Crane national, stating that it takes Crane longer than 60 days to generate an invoice. Mr. Elliott said that Nell Sewell could grant an exception to the deadline on request if she is notified.

Mr. Fickett objected to using Crane or any other company as the sole source for vending machines. Mr. Elliott and Mr. Spiliotis explained that it is the only way we can buy machines. If we used several different companies, we would have to put out a competitive bid every time a new machine was needed. Repairs would also become a major problem, as mechanics would have to stock parts for every different kind of machine in the territory they work in. Mr. Fickett withdrew his objection, saying that he had been unaware of these factors.

Mr. Wilcox asked if we could use parts from machines that are being consigned to salvage. Mr. Spiliotis said that in the past we have discussed creating a new type of business opportunity, that being repairing and refurbishing vending machines. This would result is savings both to the Agency and to vendors.

There being no other business, the meeting was adjourned at noon.

Respectfully submitted,

Gyorke Alger, Secretary

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

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