Florida Division of Blind Services logo




Mr. Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 1:30 P.M. on Friday, August 4th Mr. Klindtworth called the roll.

  • District 1 – Debby Malmberg, Alternate
  • District 2 – Valerie James, non-voting representative
  • District 3 – Don Tuell
  • District 4 – Absent
  • District 5 – Phil Bluschke
  • District 6 – Jim Anderson
  • District 7 – Tom Saunders, Alternate
  • District 8 – Gyorke Alger
  • District 9 – Joel Rose
  • District 10 – Absent
  • Tom Spiliotis, Chairperson; John Klindtworth, Vice-Chairperson
  • Agency staff: Mike Elliott, Bureau Chief; Kathy Murphey, Operations Director; Gene Newcomb, Compliance Director; Raquel Falero, Region 3 Consultant
  • Gallery: Mike Macomber, Aramatic; Debbie Bluschke; Chuck Fickett; Chuck and Debbie Hietala; Dave Kaplan, District 9 alternate; Dan Lopez, new licensee; Victor and Lenora Rosario

Mr. Rose moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Mr. Saunders seconded the motion, which passed without objection.

On behalf of the entire Committee, Mr. Spiliotis expressed great pleasure at Ms. Murphey’s return and the successful outcome of her medical treatment.

Mr. Spiliotis made several announcements concerning vendors around the State. Paul Prescott is in a rehab facility recovering from a broken leg and a broken ankle. Joel Rose will have his appendix removed soon and a full recovery is expected. Ruth Fillyaw is recovering from a broken pelvic bone. Dave Kaplan is undergoing tests for some health problems.

Several Districts will need to schedule elections for new alternates because of the elected Rep relocating to other districts. Mr. Newcomb will work with the Reps involved.

Mr. Schneider has resigned as chairperson of the Training & Re- Training subcommittee.

The OPPAGA report is in the process of being drafted pending the final exit interview.

Mr. Spiliotis spoke of numerous critical issues facing the BEP, stressing that we must continue discussing these with the Agency and support their efforts to implement current policies and develop new ones when needed. He stated that both Mr. Elliott and Ms. Murphey have been required to make some hard decisions in recent months, including LOFA cancellations and a license revocation. We all need to recognize the fact that in some cases we are not doing a good job and work together to deal with the problems in our Program.

Ms. Murphey reported that the Agency is under increasing pressure to take action to correct poor performance in our cafeterias and snack bars, especially those in Tallahassee because of their high visibility. The major areas of deficiency are general cleaning, pest control and grease trap cleaning.

Ms. Murphey also stated that most new licensees are ill prepared to take on the financial responsibilities of managing a BEP facility, citing such capital outlays as liability insurance, workman’s’ comp insurance, business licenses etc. She stressed that the working capital fund must include operating cash in addition to adequate product inventory. Client Services can also help with these start-up expenses.

Ms. Murphey reported that we have a presence in nearly every State and Federal building with a population large enough to sustain a BEP opportunity. That being the case, one new facility opened in a year is good progress. She then stated that financially the BEP is in very good shape and that we have an unprecedented level of support from DBS for our funding needs. VISINITY is doing an excellent job and unassigned machine revenue is increasing.

The final report from OPPAGA is likely to contain a recommendation that DBS implement auditing systems for BEP facilities. The OPPAGA staff as an area of concern noted the absence of any verification procedures. Mr. Elliott stated that to implement this we would need additional staff and better training.

Mr. Elliott reported that the Double Talk synthesizer units that read machine meters audibly have been ordered and will be available by the end of August. Operators should make the request for the unit from the Consultant. The equipment will be assigned to the facility, not to the individual manager.

The Agency is continuing to investigate possible new venues for business opportunities, including the Department of Corrections and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Mr. Spiliotis spoke at length about problems in our food service operations. He stated that although we are independent contractors to DBS, we are not totally autonomous. We do have a responsibility to comply with all terms of our contract and the Consultants do have the authority to enforce standards of performance that are higher than required by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation so long as this is done consistently throughout the State.

A general discussion about ways to improve performance ensued. The following suggestions were offered for both new operators and experienced managers:

  1. Establish a minimum term for every LOFA. Six months and one year were suggested.
  2. Establish and enforce the concept that the wheel does not need to be reinvented every time a facility changes management.
  3. Revisit the EATZ concept. The goal is to provide a consistent menu with consistent products from one BEP facility to the next while still allowing some room for flexibility.
  4. Limit the number of times in a given period that an operator may apply for a new location. Two in a calendar year was one suggestion.
  5. Incorporate conditions such as these as addenda to the LOFA.

These and any other restrictions adopted by the Agency would have to be cleared by the legal staff.

Don Tuell, speaking for the Facility Development subcommittee, said that he needs additional members. Part of what needs to be done is to gather and analyze data from problem food service locations, beginning with cafeterias in Tallahassee. Only with complete information can the Committee make useful recommendations to the Director as to whether a facility should be closed, converted to a streamlined snack bar, to full vending or kept as is with a good manager installed.

Mr. Spiliotis stressed the need for a hands-on task force that will spend time in the facilities identified as problem locations. These individuals must be able to observe all facets of the operation, interview staff, customers, building management and put together a package of recommendations for consideration by the Agency.

The following people were named to the new task force:

  • Don Tuell
  • Kathy Murphey
  • Valerie James
  • Debbie Hietala

Mr. Tuell and/or Mr. Spiliotis may appoint others if the need arises.

The discussion then focused on training issues. The Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the current OJT system of placing trainees with any manager who happens to be available without providing any solid guidelines to the trainer. Mr. Lopez was asked about his OJT experience and he responded that he had been placed with two different trainers and that each had used entirely different methods and approaches to his training. Mr. Tuell reported that he has spent many hours talking with trainees and has found that there is no consistency in the training product being delivered. Some trainees learn to be cooks, others become dishwashers, and some become cashiers.

Mr. Spiliotis suggested that the Agency should adopt a plan that has been discussed several times in the past, that being to select one food service facility, preferably with vending, located in Tallahassee and designate that as the single training facility. We would then need to secure funding for a new staff position of OJT trainer. This would allow us to create and deliver a consistent training product, including basic menu items that can be used in any BEP facility.

After lengthy discussion, Ms. Alger offered the following motion:

The State Committee of Vendors resolves that the first phase of OJT must be standardized and conducted in a single location using one qualified trainer. The Agency shall request establishment of this position and secure funding for the position.

Mr. Bluschke seconded the motion, which carried by unanimous roll call vote. Mr. Elliott signified his approval of this initiative and will advocate for it with the Director.

Mr. Newcomb reported that trainees who fail any of the component tests would have the right to request taking that test a third time. Mr. Elliott will be responsible for making the decision after consulting with the training staff at Daytona, Ms. Murphey, Mr. Kiser and any other individuals with pertinent information.

Ms. Murphey asked all Committee reps to help keep the Consultants updated when they learn that an individual is starting work experience in a BEP facility. Client Services should inform the Consultants but it does not always happen, so we can help.

Mr. Spiliotis recessed the meeting at 5 P.M.

The meeting was reconvened at 8:30 A.M. on Saturday, August 5.

Mr. Klindtworth called the roll. All attendees from the previous day we present. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hackney joined the gallery.

Mr. Rose presented a follow-up to the May meeting’s report on the BEP marketing film under development. In accordance with State rules governing contract bids, at least three companies must be invited to participate and their cost projections remain sealed until the bids are entered. The first company gave its presentation to the Committee in May and the others made their presentations at this session. The three bids now go to DBS and into the State bid process.

Mr. Hackney announced that NFB is producing a video explaining the Randolph-Shepard program and that a short teaser can be viewed at nfb.org.

Mr. Klindtworth reported for the Audit/Budget subcommittee. Revenue from set aside and unassigned vending were approximately $660,000 for the last fiscal year. This number represents a nominal increase from the previous year, primarily from unassigned vending income. VISINITY is responsible for this increase.

Annual program sales for the last fiscal year were $24.5 million, a number that has remained stable for several years. Ms. Murphey said that the last two hurricane seasons had no major effect on sales or profits.

We currently have 153 facilities, of which 20 are not viable as stand-alones. Of these, four are either now closed or in the process of being closed, combined or changed to a simpler format. We have 133 licensed vendors.

Mr. Rose brought up the fact that many building are reducing the use of power by turning off the AC at night and on weekends and raising the temperatures during business hours. This results in much melted candy. He asked if BEP should consider buying only chilled snack machines. Ms. Murphey responded in the affirmative. Ms. Malmberg reported that she has a portable AC unit to use in case of power failure.

Mr. Hackney, President of the Florida Association of Blind Merchants, presented information and updates on several topics. One of these is pending Federal legislation known as the OASIS concept that, if it became law, would allow private business entities to compete with our highway rest stops by placing their outlets on nearby roads and using signage at the exit areas. For more information on this and other topics go to http://www.blindmerchants.org and follow the links.

NABM is pursuing several national buying programs, including Frito-Lay. Anyone interested in this can contact Mr. Hackney for more information.

Mr. Spiliotis asked for an update from the Transfer & Promotion subcommittee. Ms. Alger reported that the 5 points allocated to meeting net profit expectations in the current protocol has proved unworkable and was not used in the last selection round. Instead, Mr. Newcomb and the Selection Panel pro-rated the point value of the other performance elements. The Panel and the T&P subcommittee agree that we should only use verifiable data in the process. One suggestion was to use the 5 points in a discretionary way, but no action was taken on this idea.

The consensus was to take no action at this time and revisit the issue at the October meeting.

Mr. Spiliotis asked for a report from the Policy Development subcommittee on the subject of combining facilities. Ms. Alger presented the working draft of proposed guidelines. There was general agreement that the factors identified in the draft need to be considered. The threshold of viability was discussed at length and Mr. Elliott suggested that a reasonable target would be a net profit of $30,000. Mr. Elliott also stated that in future the data from locations being evaluated for combining would be audited.

Mr. Spiliotis announced that the Department of Transportation has informed DBS that it wants identifying signage at all highway rest stops. This is to include the vendor’s company name and the affiliation with DBS. Mr. Fickett will chair the subcommittee to develop this signage, with help from John Kalivoda, Donna Jean Hackney, who works for a sign company, and Gyorke Alger.

Mr. Klindtworth asked Mr. Elliott to direct all the Consultants to verify that managers in their Regions comply with all insurance requirements. Mr. Elliott agreed to do so.

The roundtable discussion began with further details of various situations in the Tallahassee cafeterias. A grease fire in the DOE kitchen that required assistance from several DBS staffers may have had the unexpected benefit of focusing attention on the problem areas in the food service sector of our program. Mr. Elliott is working to negotiate a statewide contract for grease trap cleaning. He is also looking into a contract for pest control and quarterly cleaning of all food service locations in the Tallahassee area.

Mr. Spiliotis asked about the process by which exit inventories are conducted, stating that a checklist is needed and that the Consultant should always be present. Ms. Murphey agreed and said that more attention will be given to this in future. She specifically mentioned that more attention needs to be paid to the equipment inventory.

Valerie James spoke about efforts in progress to streamline and update the food service in several Tallahassee cafeterias using the Boar’s Head product line and their deli concept, which includes training, signage and menus. This is in line with the Committee’s desire to establish a more uniform quality of product.

Mr. Anderson reported a minor pricing issue in District 6 at three of the Space Center routes. An official wants the prices to be the same as at other military bases, but when correctly approached is usually open to reason.

Mr. Saunders reported that a manager in District 7 has expressed concern about an Agency decision to replace machines at a rest stop earlier than their scheduled date. Discussion revealed that there were extenuating circumstances involving the type of machines that were in place and their unsuitability for that location.

A question was raised about whether it is appropriate for a manager to ask the Operations Director or Bureau Chief to alter a decision made by the Consultant. Mr. Elliott stated his belief that a manager always has the right to request a review of any decision.

There being no other business, Mr. Spiliotis adjourned the meeting at approximately 1:30 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,

Gyorke Alger

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

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