STATE COMMITTEE OF VENDORS
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MINUTES: OCTOBER 27-28, 2006
Mr. Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 1:30 P.M. and asked Mr. Klindtworth to call the roll.
- District 1 - Steve Schneider
- District 2 - Valerie James
- District 3 - Don Tuell
- District 4 - Bill Perret
- District 5 - Phil Bluschke
- District 6 - absent
- District 7 - Paul Prescott
- District 8 - Gyorke Alger
- District 9 - Joel Rose
- District 10 - absent
- Tom Spiliotis, Chairman
- John Klindtworth, Vice-Chair
- Kathy Murphey, Operations Director
- Mike Elliott, Bureau Chief and Gene Newcomb, Compliance Director, joined the meeting at approximately 3:30 P.M.
- Gallery - Jim and Lorna Lover; John and Marilyn Kalivoda; Chuck and Debbie Hietala; Dave Kaplan; Vic Rosario; Mike Macomber; Barbara Perret; Bonnie Prescott
Mr. Rose moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Mr. Bluschke seconded and the motion carried by unanimous voice vote.
Ms. Murphey gave a lengthy report on facility operations and the status of the program in general. The conversion of cafeterias to deli-style snack bars or full vending is being implemented wherever possible. At present this includes two in Tampa and one in Tallahassee using elements of the Boar?s Head deli concept that are applicable to our locations. One of these is the former cafeteria in the Collins Building, previously operated in combination with the Fletcher Building. The Agency plans to try this approach in the Fletcher Building and ultimately use this facility as our training center.
Implementation of the Barney?s concept is on hold as that company is downsizing and selling some of its operations to Starbucks.
Our greatest need is to establish stability of management in food service locations. The most common complaint from the customer base in these operations is high manager turnover.
BEP is also facing problems in the prison vending locations and other Federal locations throughout the State. Security concerns and increasingly stringent regulations make transition from one manager to a new one more difficult because it takes at least 45 days for security clearances and obtaining badges.
We are struggling to keep the facilities we have; there is no possibility that we can build 8 or 9 new ones every year as suggested by Legislative policy. We need to refocus our efforts on maintaining the customer base in existing facilities.
Ms. Murphey is investigating ways to accomplish this goal. She hopes to develop a plan for programmed sales promotions in all types of BEP facilities. She is in the process of interviewing applicants for the staff position vacated by Mr. Batterton with the intent that this new employee will have the expertise to take on the project. She stressed that participation by vendors would be on a voluntary basis.
Mr. Spiliotis applauded this initiative but expressed discomfort with the fact that as Chairman he had been unaware of it until it was brought to the full Committee. He stated that there has been a general decline in communication between Agency staff and the Committee and that we must work together to improve this. He cited a communiqui from RSA that stresses the need for better co-operation between SLA's and State Committees. He also stated that the constraints of the Sunshine Law have had a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas between Committee members as well as between Agency staff and Committee people.
Mr. Spiliotis pledged to dedicate himself to frequent communication with the BEP leadership and to relay the results to the District Reps. He stated that we need to return to a more free-form mode of operations.
Mr. Spiliotis then stated that many of the problems we face in our program stem form the poor training available for food service locations. Although vending locations are basically uniform regardless of size, every one of our food service facilities is unique and there is no way to train a recruit for each one. The move to simplification and creating a standard formula for operating a BEP food service outlet is excellent and we must support and encourage it.
The Committee then heard a presentation by Ms. Debbie Hietala, one of our most experienced food service operators. She detailed events relating to a newly licensed manager?s failure to provide adequate service to a facility in Tampa. Upon receipt of a complaint from the building manager, the Consultant investigated and found the facility in deplorable condition. The manager was issued a warning that failure to remedy the numerous problems would result in LOFA cancellation and the manager?s response was to immediately resign the LOFA in order to avoid penalties in the selection process. He apparently did not realize that some penalties would be applied even if he voluntarily resigned. Ms. Hietala expressed frustration and asked that the Committee direct the Transfer & Promotion subcommittee to develop point reduction penalties to be based on an exit report and to work with the Agency in the development of said report. A copy of Ms. Hietala?s presentation is attached hereto.
The Committee expressed unanimous agreement as to the reality and severity of this problem. It is not unique to one facility. Ms. Murphey agreed and will develop an exit checklist that the Consultants will be required to complete upon every management changeover. Ms. Alger read a brief document listing several elements that need to be included. She also stated that at every changeover the Consultant and the district Rep should be in attendance, as well as the exiting manager and the incoming one. A suggestion was made to modify that to include the Alternate or another designated vendor in the event the Rep is unavailable or perceives a conflict of interest. Ms. Murphey also agreed to this provision.
Mr. Spiliotis asked the members of the Selection Panel in attendance if this information would be useful in their deliberations and they responded unanimously in the affirmative.
Mr. Spiliotis then asked the Committee and Agency to address the issue of enacting a transition strategy to ensure that managerial changes will be as seamless as possible. He stated that our program?s lack of a transition strategy is irresponsible and is a major factor in both the failure rate of new managers and the high rate of customer dissatisfaction. The ensuing discussion centered on two main points. The first is that the incoming manager must be present and available for one full week before signing the LOFA and the second is that this must be mandatory. The Consultant must be fully involved and would make the necessary arrangements. The new manager and the outgoing one would then work together with the Consultant to ensure that merchandise levels are at appropriate levels, that there is sufficient working capital (cash) to operate the facility. Contact info is to be provided for suppliers, and the new manager will have the opportunity to meet with facility employees. The incoming manager will also meet the building manager and have the opportunity to become familiar with the physical plant. The incoming manager will begin making arrangements for business insurance and all necessary permits and occupational licenses, with help from the Agency if needed.
Mr. Newcomb said that this information could be included with each posting of vacancy announcements.
After further discussion Mr. Spiliotis asked for a motion. Ms. Alger offered the following, seconded by Mr. Bluschke:
Facility announcements shall include a statement that upon acceptance of a location the successful applicant is required to be present and available for the week prior to signing the LOFA in order to co-ordinate a smooth transition, become familiar with the facility and resolve any issues that may arise.
The motion carried by unanimous roll call vote and Ms. Murphey signified the Agency?s acceptance of the plan.
The next item was a lengthy discussion as to the possibility of placing a time requirement on LOFA?s. Suggestions included applying a one-year requirement for operators with less than 36 months experience. This could raise legal issues in that it would create two classes of managers, a violation of the Federal regulations. Another idea was to enact a one-year requirement for all facilities. Another was to make any time requirement facility specific, applying it to locations with a high turnover rate. No consensus was reached and Mr. Spiliotis tabled the subject to later in the session.
Mr. Spiliotis informed the Committee that several Selection Panel terms would expire on December 31st of this year and that we needed to take action. One Panelist has resigned and a replacement must be confirmed for the remaining year of that term.
In separate roll call votes, the Committee confirmed the following individuals as
Selection Panel members:
- Ms. Debby Malmberg to a three-year term
- Ms. Debbie Hietala to a one-year term
- Ms. Kathy Graham to a three-year term as an Alternate
- Ms. Valerie James to a two-year term as an Alternate
- Mr. Victor Rosario to a one-year term as an Alternate
The full list of Selection Panelists and their term dates is attached hereto.
Mr. Spiliotis asked the Committee to consider a proposal to reduce the number of vacancy announcements from the current four to either two or three. Mr. Elliott stated opposition to this and the matter was tabled.
Mr. Spiliotis announced that Mr. Bluschke has agreed to serve as Chair of the Training subcommittee. Mr. Bluschke reported that there have been fourteen LOFA cancellations during the past five years. He stated that this is unacceptable and that we must ask our selves why it is happening. The answer is poor training and lack of follow-up. He suggested that we need a complete overhaul of the BEP training program. The first component in the new program would be a two-week evaluation conducted at the Training Center in Daytona. This would determine the recruit?s suitability for business management training in the retail food industry. Trainees would then be placed in a cafeteria under the work Experience program, with no predetermined time limit. They would be taught every aspect of the daily operation of a food service business, including vending machines.
The final element would be business ownership/management training in Daytona. During this time the trainees would be taught all necessary paperwork, upgrade their computer skills, learn about taxes, insurance and all related management skills.
This approach would allow trainees and trainers the time and opportunity to determine if they have the interest, aptitude and work ethic required for a career in business management.
Mr. Spiliotis added that we could reinstate the certification program for both cafeteria and vending and offer credit in the selection process.
This proposal will undergo further study before being implemented.
Mr. Spiliotis asked for a report from the Facility Development subcommittee.
Mr. Elliott spoke first, stating that the Collins Building facility is off the table for use as a training center. It has been bid out and is under conversion to a simplified deli format. OTC sales have dropped to about $180 a day, this is expected to increase. The kitchen has been closed and the new menus will be in place soon. If it remained combined with the Fletcher Building its sales should be approximately $10,000 monthly.
The Fletcher Building has not been bid out. It is likely to be used as a training center in accordance with the plan developed at the last Committee meeting. This would require establishing a new position for a trainer. Mr. Elliott said that this could take up to a year. The Committee indicated that we believe this is a worthwhile goal and we should stay on track with the plan. Mr. Elliott then said that if possible he would like to contract with a private entity to provide the needed training services because this could be done in less time. The committee approved this plan.
Mr. Tuell said that he would like to involve vendors in the development of a new OJT curriculum. The following people volunteered to participate: Debbie Hietala, Valerie James, Phil Bluschke, Vic Rosario and Mike Macomber from Aramatic. Mr. Tuell and Mr. Bluschke will co-chair this project.
Mr. Spiliotis recessed the meeting at approximately 5 P.M. and reconvened at 8:35 A.M. on Saturday, October 28th.
With the exception of Districts 6 and 10, all Reps were in attendance. Mr. Elliott, Ms. Murphey and Mr. Newcomb were present.
Charles and Donna Hackney and Kathy Warth joined the gallery.
Mr. Elliott stated that he withdrew his objection to reducing the number of bid postings. He stated that he believed three would be better than two. After discussion and consultation with Mr. Newcomb about logistics, Mr. Rose offered a motion to announce vacancies in January, May and September of each year, beginning in January, 2007. Ms. Alger seconded the motion, which carried by unanimous roll call vote.
Mr. Elliott asked the Committee to approve the elimination of the bid announcement from the BEP toll-free line as of May, 2007, stating that DBS is in the process of closing it out entirely. The January posting would include that information. The Committee agreed.
Mr. Schneider suggested extending the deadline for applications. Several options were discussed and Ms. Alger moved to post the bids on the first business day of the bid month with a deadline of 21 calendar days for receipt of applications. Mr. Rose seconded and the motion carried by voice vote.
Mr. Spiliotis re-introduced the subject of attaching a time commitment to the LOFA. He stressed the fact that the Agency makes a significant financial investment in both the people it trains and the facilities it maintains, whereas the licensee is under no requirement to make any investment.
Mr. Elliott expressed misgivings about time requirements, fearing that it would be subject to winnable grievances. He also said that extending the time between bids may alleviate some of the rapid turnover problems.
Mr. Spiliotis raised the point that many of our problem facilities have proven to be viable and profitable when a competent manager takes over. When this happens that manager is not inclined to leave in a short period of time. Mr. Rose agreed, saying that if new managers are well trained many problems won?t occur.
Mr. Klindtworth suggested that the Consultants should work more closely with new managers. Ms. Murphey replied that this is an ongoing project.
The Committee agreed to wait and see if extending the bid time has a positive effect on reducing frequent turnovers. Mr. Elliott will also work with the counselors to ensure that they explain to their clients that learning a new business takes time and that they should be willing to commit themselves to a year to improve their chance of becoming successful.
Ms. Murphey mentioned that we should hire the handicapped whenever possible. The RSA is now collecting data on the number of disabled employees we have, this may be a precursor to enacting some requirement that will force us to employ people just because they have a disability.
The August, 2007 Biennial Seminar was discussed. A trade show for less than 100 people is not sustainable so we need to concentrate on the educational aspects. Anyone with a bright idea is asked to contact Tom Spiliotis, Gyorke Alger or Susan Johnson ? an email to all three would be best. Making attendance mandatory has been discussed but will most likely not happen. Some ideas for consideration included coordinating with other blind groups, hiring outside speakers and teaming with other States to hold a Regional Seminar. Mr. Rose suggested we invite blind people who are not connected with BEP and offer them information about our program. One medium we can use is the NFB listserv.
The next item discussed was the rest stop signage imitative. Mr. Spiliotis said that because the State funding process is convoluted and time-consuming, we should do this as individual business owners. Mr. Hackney showed the assembly the sign he has in use at his rest area. Mrs. Hackney works for a sign company that can offer us a sign of any size needed, with a choice of colors and material. Each vendor would be responsible for obtaining permission from DOT to use this sign. Mr. Spiliotis stressed that this will be voluntary, but that we need to upgrade our professional image and give our customers our contact information in a uniform way.
The sign demonstrated by Mr. Hackney is 24" by 36", made of aluminum and mounts to a wall with four screws. The cost from Safety Products, Inc. is $37.50 plus $17 shipping. The wording is as follows:
VENDING SERVICES PROVIDED BY
YOUR BUSINESS NAME HERE
YOUR PHONE NUMBER
THIS BUSINESS IS OPERATED BY A BLIND PERSON UNDER CONTRACT WITH THE FLORIDA DIVISION OF BLIND SERVICES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FEDERAL RANDOLPH-SHEPPARD ACT.
Color choices for background and text are: white, black, red, blue, green, brown, orange, yellow, purple. To order call Donna Jean Hackney at Safety Products, Inc. The toll-free number is 800-248-6860. Or you may contact a sign company closer to your location.
Mr. Spiliotis and Ms. Murphey thanked Mr. and Mrs. Hackney and Ms. Alger for their efforts in getting this project underway.
Mr. Spiliotis opened the floor for a round table discussion.
Ms. Warth spoke of a problem she is having with the Postal authorities on her vending route. They are demanding a 15% commission on sales, claiming that they are receiving that from a private company servicing some locations in Pinellas County. The Postal authorities claim that the Randolph-Sheppard Act allows this practice. Mr. Elliott stated emphatically that this is not the case and advised Ms. Warth to have the Postal authorities contact him directly, and that the legal staff at DBS will handle it. Ms. Warth also asked about the possibility of reclaiming the Belcher substation and several others in the County. The Post Office maintains that these locations do not have 100 full-time employees and are therefore exempt from Randolph-Sheppard. Mr. Spiliotis explained that the language in the Act referencing to 100 employees was written to protect SLA?s from being forced to provide service to locations that are not large enough to be profitable and that the Post Office has consistently used its own interpretation of the Act to keep us out. Mr. Elliott pledged to pursue this issue.
The food service facility in the Tampa Federal Building is under conversion to full vending. The Agency believes its sales will sustain a manager and it will be bid out when the conversion is complete.
Ms. Warth offered a suggestion for a Seminar training workshop in cash register operation and data analysis. This would be done using a talking register. She stated that there is a wealth of information that can be retrieved and analyzed from the cash register and that many vendors are unaware of this feature.
Ms. Warth also recommended using the cafeteria in Brooksville as an OJT facility.
Mr. Perret brought up the subject of the JEA vending facility in Jacksonville, a new location that is being managed on a limited LOFA by Mary Hayes. Annual sales are projected to be $48 - $60,000 and business expenses are high because there is no on-site storage available. The sales projection is vague because there is a cafeteria operated by a private company and we do not know if it will remain open or not. Mr. Klindtworth stated that the Consultant wants to extend the limited LOFA for one year to determine if this can be a viable stand-alone facility. Mr. Spiliotis stated that the sales data is in the machines and can be easily verified. Mr. Klindtworth responded that the consultant does check the readings and that the sales are being accurately reported.
Ms. Murphey said that the Agency needs to examine the whole situation and would prefer to put this facility on a month-to-month LOFA so that it can be bid out if and when it is determined that it can be a viable opportunity for a vendor. She mentioned the possibility of pulling some machines from VISINITY (unassigned vending), stating that if we can create a new facility we should do so.
Mr. Rose informed the Committee that the facility in the West Side Regional Courthouse may be closed as a result of a construction project in progress. The County will make every effort to keep the facility open, and Mr. Rose will maintain communication with their staff. He said there may be an opportunity to establish a vending operation within the complex that includes the courthouse, a nearby hospital and a bus depot.
Mr. Rose also reported that he is losing 3-5% of the product from his food machines and would like to see a reduction in the net profit requirement for non-highway vending locations that have cold food machines..
Mr. Spiliotis acknowledged that the 25% net profit required for all types of non-highway vending is unrealistic, but reminded the Committee that "it all comes down to money." We could lower the percentage if we are willing to collect less set aside. He mentioned the possibility of creating more facility categories. Ms. Murphey requested that we not do so, stating that it would create a paperwork nightmare. This situation will require further investigation.
Ms. James stated that the person who has accepted the FCI vending facility in Tallahassee needs to take over the LOFA as soon as possible, that he has had ample time to get the necessary clearance. Mr. Elliott will see that it gets done.
Mr. Spiliotis thanked the Committee and Agency staff for a very productive and positive meeting and adjourned the assembly at 11:15 A.M.
Gyorke Alger, Secretary
October 26th, 2006
Dear Mr. Elliott and members of the committee,
I have been in this program since 1986 and have seen the Randolph Shepherd Program through a lot of different phases over the years. Some have been positive and some negative. However, I have noticed a reoccurring problem that I don?t exactly have the answer to but would like to bring it to your attention. This pertains to managers that perform poorly, resign or are removed from their facilities and go on to bid and receive another facility without being held accountable financially and physically for their actions.
To illustrate, I would like to share my personal experience with a facility in my district. We recently had a newly licensed manager on a limited LOFA resign from a facility that happens to be within walking distance of my own. He agreed to the LOFA and took over in August 2006. Unfortunately, he was showing up late and not doing the job well. His consultant had counseled him on many occasions and finally, on October 4, 2006, the consultant was contacted by the building manager at 7:30 in the morning asking why the facility wasn?t open yet. The consultant went to the facility to investigate and found the manager sitting outside the locked facility because he gave his only key to an employee that didn?t show up that day. When the consultant informed him that his actions would result in a written warning that could lead to a removal, he replied, "Well I might as well resign then so I don?t loose 25 points on the interview." He proceeded to resign and walked off on the spot. There was no one to open the facility so it was abruptly closed that day. When the consultant and manager returned 3 days later to inventory, the manager never even bothered to clean up the dishes left in the sink, clean out the deli refrigerator of open meats cheese, mayo, etc, coffee in the air pots, dirty water in the mop bucket, and a general lack of responsibility as to what condition he left the facility in. During inventory, the consultant found no money in the cash drawer, and a decrease in the initial inventory resulting in a net loss owed by the manager to the agency.
I was not aware of all of this until the following week when I received at least three inquiries by mutual purveyors as to why the facility was not open when they went to deliver. At least two purveyors expressed their concern to me because they had not been paid for their previous deliveries. This was embarrassing since I had referred one of my favorite purveyors with whom I?ve had a long term relationship with to this manager. I called the consultant to find out what was going on and she informed me that the manager had resigned and she was in the process of determining what to do with the inventory. I walked over there to see what I could do to help and was sickened to find the facility in the condition described above. For three days the consultant and I liquidated any usable inventory and spruce the place up enough for customers to come in to use the vending machines. Also, the consultant had to scramble to get the machines in the building restocked and a temporary manager to fill in until the facility could be bid out. It was appalling to me to see how much time and money the agency had to invest to keep this facility viable because a manager acted irresponsibly. The exiting manager, not the agency, should have to be held accountable for the cleaning of the equipment, facility and disposal of unusable inventory, either personally or by paying a cleaning company. . Even though I volunteered, I was not too happy to spend at least 12 hours of my personal time picking up after some one else. Unfortunately, this situation is just a rerun of what happened six months ago with the previous manager. It doesn?t make a very good impression on the building management and customers as to our ability to be responsible blind business owners. If this had been any sighted person owner operating a franchise out in "the real world," how much tolerance do you think there would be for this type of performance and what do you think their chances would be in getting another franchise?
As I learned at the last committee meeting I attended, this is a state wide problem and a concern of those of us who care deeply for this program. Therefore I am asking the committee, specifically the transfer and promotion subcommittee to create a type of "Exit Checklist" that the consultant, manager and district representative fill out along with the inventory, signed by all parties and included into the selection process to hopefully identify those candidates who deserve to be promoted from those who do not. Let's put the responsibility of being accountable back on the applicant rather than on the agency.
Thank you for your attention, respectfully submitted, Debbie Hietala
SELECTION PANEL MEMBERS AND TERM DATES
DEBBY MALMBERG ? JANUARY 1, 2006 - DECEMBER 31, 2006
NEW 3-YEAR TERM --- JANUARY 1, 2007 ? DECEMBER 31, 2009
JIM LOVER - JANUARY 1, 2006 ? DECEMBER 31, 2008
DEBBIE HIETALA - JANUARY 1, 2007 ? DECEMBER 31, 2007
KATHY GRAHAM (BACK-UP ALTERNATE)
NOVEMBER 1, 2003 ?DECEMBER 31, 2006
NEW TERM JANUARY 1, 2007 ? DECEMBER 31, 2009
VALERIE JAMES (BACK-UP ALTERNATE)
NOVEMBER 1, 2003 ? DECEMBER 31, 2006
NEW TERM ? JANUARY 1, 2007 ? DECEMBER 31-2008
VICTOR ROSARIO (BACK-UP ALTERNATE_
JANUARY 1, 2007 ? DECEMBER 31, 2007
JOHN KALIVODA (PRIMARY ALTERNATE)
JANUARY 1, 2006 ? DECEMBER 31, 2008
In accordance with Committee action taken 11/5/05, all Selection panel terms will expire on December 31st of the calendar year of expiration.