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Quarterly Meeting of the State Committee of Vendors

Friday, June 4, 2021

Chairman James Warth called the meeting to order at 8:30am. Janet Chernoff, Administrative Services Consultant called the role.

The following individuals were present:
James Warth, Chairman
Terri Lindstrom, Vice Chairman

District Representatives: Kurt Ponchak, District 1; Mike Renaud, District 2; Mitzi Bowen, District 3; Randall Crosby, District 4; David Stevens, District 5; Phil Hubbard, District 6; Jose Quintanilla, District 7; Mary Hayes, District 8 Alternate; Joel Rose, District 9. District 10 was not represented.

Bureau of Business Enterprise Staff: Bill Findley, Bureau Chief; Maureen Fink, Operations Manager; Alan Risk, Compliance Officer; John Ahler, Business Analyst; Greg Coon, Marketing and Site Development Manager; Bernie Kaiserian, Region 2 Business Consultant, Jay Payne, Region 3 Business Consultant; Tony Arduengo, Region 4 Business Consultant; Rafaella Diershaw, Region 5 Business Consultant; Mark Meyer, Region 6 Business Consultant, Janet Chernoff, Administrative Services Consultant; Mary Ellen Harding, Administrative Assistant.

Licensed Vendors: Woody Matthews, Orlando Ramirez, Todd Bowen, Daniel Ochoa, Kash Ahmed.

Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Training staff, Steve Moss and Angela Elgaard and trainee Paola Espinoza.

Guests: Terry Smith, National Association of Blind Merchants

Mitzi Bowen made a motion to adopt the agenda. Seconded by Phil Hubbard. The agenda was adopted without objection. Phil Hubbard made a motion to accept the minutes from the last meeting held on April 21, 2021 as written. Seconded by Mitzi Bowen. Adopted without objection.

BBE Updates – Bill Findley

Bill Findley advised the group that he received updated budget information the previous evening. He confirmed that the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) has the money it needs to do business. There is $74,500 in the Bank of America account which is lower than the $250,000 usually in that account. There is $36,600 in the spending account. In 2019 the program was averaging $48,000 per month in set aside and third party income. For the last three months the BBE has averaged $34,000 in set aside and third party income. Sales at the rest areas on the interstates are improving. Usually the BBE spends about 1.3 million from the 1.5 million account. This year only $407,000 has been spent and that has covered the expenses. There is sufficient budget authority to cover military contracts. There was a short discussion about whether the lower expenditures would impact the federal match. The BBE monies are part of a pool the Division of Blind Services (DBS) uses for federal match.

The facilities in prisons are stilled closed. Visitors are allowed into the prisons but are not allowed to use the vending machines. The BBE does not want to make any decisions about food service locations prematurely. There were a few locations such as the snack bars in Martin County and in Miami that both had declining sales prior to the pandemic. The Martin County snack bar was closed when the operator retired. The snack bar in the Miami federal building had no permanent operator and has been converted to vending. The cafeteria in the Capital Circle Office Complex (CCOC) was closed permanently by building management and there are plans to open a micro market in another location in the complex. There are facilities in locations where the building population has returned but are not patronizing the food service. Changing habits and the opportunity to work remotely a few days a week along with other factors make it problematic to determine whether a location will eventually be viable. It is a challenge to find operators for these locations as new vendors may not be willing to relocate without an assurance that they can support themselves. In addition the program has three vendors on medical leave. The BBE will continue to monitor the situation but it may be Labor Day or later before the viability of these facilities can be determined.

FRRP monies have been received and are being distributed to the vendors. Jim Warth thanked BBE staff and members of the subcommittee for all their hard work on this project. RSA indicated that the plan for Florida vendors was exceptional. The group discussed whether the FRRP money is taxable as income. Vendors should consult their accountants. Each operator received an email from the agency concerning their FRRP award and that can be used to document the reason they received the money. As of last week twenty states have not submitted their plan to RSA. A couple of states have contacted us for our assistance. The Florida plan is one of the more complex because of the number and variety of facilities. All of the money except $199 was distributed. The balance was used for the maintenance of equipment as specified in the plan submitted to RSA.

The contract for military dining at Hurlburt Field officially started on June 1, 2021. Vendor Wanda Feldsteen has this facility along with her teaming partner, FSIG. The contract is for one base year and four option years. Bill Findley, Brian Ashworth and Wanda attended a kick off meeting on May 6, 2021. 

After some initial meetings with the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), the BBE sent an email advising them that we were not going to pursue the next contract as the terms were not acceptable. Discussions continued and we were able to negotiate better terms. The new agreement is in process. The facility is expanding and will have a new training center and garage. Vending machines will be set up near the construction site and the vendor will have an exclusive on food service inside the facility.

Budget Report – Bill Findley, Kurt Ponchak  

At the March meeting the Committee voted to extend the net profit waiver until the June meeting. The Agency believes it is time to end the waiver of the net profit expectation. Net profit is based on the average for the year and it is not unusual for a facility to not meet the net profit expectation one or two months in a year. The group discussed resuming the expectation for all vendors but allowing vendors to request a waiver if circumstances warrant it. Kurt Ponchak made a motion to end the waiver of the net profit expectation as of July 1, 2021. The Bureau Chief along with the Committee Chairman will establish a panel to review applications for a waiver. This panel should include members of the committee and BBE staff including the Regional Consultant and District Representative. Seconded by Mike Renaud. Bernie Kaiserian recommended that the Regional Consultant be consulted but not included in the decision to grant the waiver. Alan Risk advised the group that all open facilities are making their net profit expectation except for one facility. The discussion included concerns on whether the decision to waive the requirement should be made by a panel or by the Agency. Vendors were also concerned about Type II facilities and facilities that are closed or only partially opened. Mike Renaud confirmed that vendors that received the waiver from the net profit expectation would not be penalized during the selection cycle. Jim Warth felt that a process needs to be developed and that facilities that receive a waiver should be reevaluated on a monthly basis. The motion was approved by voice vote by the ten members present at the meeting. District 4 and District 10 were not represented during the vote. 

RSVF Update – Woody Matthews

Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of Florida (RSVF) is a nonprofit membership organization with a mission to help the blind vendors of Florida. RSVF will have a membership drive at the Biennial Seminar. Randall Crosby organized a fundraiser run in October of 2020. The funds raised by the run were distributed to vendors impacted by the pandemic. Another run is planned for this fall and the money is earmarked for a scholarship fund. The scholarship will be available in 2022 for a blind person graduating from high school. RSVF is hoping to make this an annual event. A golf fundraiser with vendor Phil Hubbard is also being considered. Over the last year it has become apparent that many issues considered critical are not as important. Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America (RSVA) will try to find problems common to all programs to address. RSVF will focus on issues specific to Florida vendors. Terri Lindstrom thanked the group for helping vendor Ryan Akeley. RSVF raised funds to help Ryan and his family when they lost their home to a fire.

National Update – Terry Smith

Over the last fifteen months the National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM) has focused on getting the FRRP money. This was finally approved on December 19, 2021 and vendors throughout the country are starting to receive the funds. Concerns were expressed by the vendors on how the money was to be used and whether vendors would be actively involved with the decision. Overall vendors and the SLAs worked together. The legislation was designed to be flexible and RSA did not tell individual programs how to use the funds. Many of the states have similar plans and only a few states were charged an administrative fee. Terry Smith advised the group that the NABM does not know if the income is taxable and that it was not addressed in the legislation. Terry suggested vendors should check with their accountants on this matter. NABM provided a webinar on the funds available for restaurant relief. Twenty-one billion was earmarked to help the restaurant business and for the first twenty-one days they were only taking applications from minority and disadvantaged businesses. A number of blind vendors have been approved to receive money from this relief package. The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) is trying to get relief for the vending industry but there is not much enthusiasm for another relief package at this time.

RSA plans to provide policy guidance on a number topics. Guidance on active participation was provided around the time that the FRRP bill was signed. Other topics they plan to address are unassigned vending and teaming partners. There is a concern that RSA is creating policy through monitoring as it is inconsistent and can result in one state having different guidelines than another.

NABM will be holding an event with Vistar in Atlantic City in September. Vendors who are Vistar customers can bring up to three guests. NABM will make arrangements for SLA staff to attend. The event will include twelve hours of training along with a Vistar Buying and Trade Show. Nothing about rest area commercialization is mentioned in the current infrastructure bill. The only concern is that the push to offer charging stations for electric vehicles at rest areas may result in a demand to expand retail options at those locations.

Type II Update – Maureen Fink

There are twenty-seven facilities under Type II LOFAs. Seven are on the current selection cycle. Twelve facilities will be on future cycles. Most of those locations are experiencing low sales due to the pandemic and will need to be assessed for viability. One facility was awarded in the January cycle and the changeover delayed as the operator’s Type I is on the May cycle. Four locations are being evaluated to determine viability and three facilities have operators on medical leave.

Daytona Training Report – Training Staff

The last student who started virtual training will be finished this month and three new trainees will start on June 21, 2021. Business is slowly improving at the snack bar. Construction of a bathroom near the snack bar will allow the location to be open to outside guests while maintaining the security of persons utilizing the center.

Biennial Seminar – Janet Chernoff

Space has been reserved for August 27-28, 2021 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel for the seminar. We are waiting for official approval before moving forward. Servsafe will be offered to interested vendors on Friday morning. Other topics for sessions include micro markets, golf, Talking Book Library, guide dogs and the Toastmaster’s Club. The election for chairman and vice chairman will be slightly different as Sunshine Law dictates that there are no secret ballots.

District Elections – Janet Chernoff

District Elections will also be held in compliance with the Sunshine Law. The earliest that they can be held is sixty days prior to the first day of the Biennial but it may be better to wait until after the May selection cycle is complete.

Exception to the LOFA Commitment Requirement – Bill Findley

Alan Risk read Section 4.1, LOFA commitment requirement and also read Florida Statute 120.542 that allows a petition of variance or waiver from rules. Recently a vendor was awarded and signed into a Type I LOFA for a facility that is over seventy-five miles from his home. Days after signing into that facility a comparable facility became available closer to home. The vendor has been operating a Type II facility for more than two years. Circumstances prevented this facility from being viable as a Type I as it was impacted by Hurricane Michael and was just beginning to reopen when the pandemic closed it a second time. Legal was contacted to discuss the option to waive the LOFA commitment requirement and they advised us of the relevant statue. The vendor has filed the petition for the waiver and it will be posted on the Administrative Register. Once posted interested parties will be given fourteen days to comment on the request. After the period for comments is completed the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (JAPC) has thirty days to rule on the request. The vendor has been allowed to participate in the current selection cycle as nothing in the rule precludes it. There is no guarantee that the vendor will be awarded the facility even if the waiver is granted. Committee members expressed concerns about whether this would set a precedent and result in other vendors asking for a waiver. Another concern was whether the vendor would be violating the seventy-five mile while he waited for a decision. This petition was filed in accordance with the law and is not a committee decision.

Policy Review Discussion – Jim Warth

There are areas in the policy and rule that need to be clarified. BBE staff and a subcommittee need to review the policies. Changes in the program such as the addition of card readers on vending machines need to be addressed. Legally things tend to be very black and white and the language in the rules need to be more specific. Phil Hubbard, Orlando Ramirez and Kurt Ponchak volunteered to be part of the group that would review the rules and recommend any changes.  

Marketing and Site Development – Greg Coon

As of May 2021 one hundred and fifteen vending machines have been installed. One micro market is waiting to be installed in the Department of Children and Family (DCF) at the Centre of Tallahassee and another is in negotiation for a Department of Transportation (DOT) location in Tallahassee. Brian Ashworth and Greg Coon have met with DOT a couple of times. Sixteen more machines are scheduled to be added to locations and every effort will be made to install them before the end of June. Thirty surveys have been completed in 2021 and there have been opportunities to visit locations as things reopen. Locations include Lake Baldwin State Veteran’s home, DCF in Palm Bay and Leon County School District. San Sebastian State Park and Gamble Rogers State Park are both interested in laundry services and machines are slated to be installed at Fort Zachary Taylor and Tomoka State Parks. VA locations in Tampa and Jacksonville are also moving forward. Greg will be checking back with locations such as the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport and a Department of Health location as previously they were hesitant to move forward due to COVID-19. Phil Hubbard suggested checking on the vending at Patrick Air Force Base (AFB) and Cape Canaveral AFB as Canteen has the vending contract. The contact for those locations is based at MacDill AFB where we currently have vending. Phil also said that there may be additional opportunities at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as the food service in the visitor center is closed and another contractor providing food service for KSC has ended their contract. Kurt Ponchak suggested looking into a large distribution center planned for Tallahassee. Don Meloy had previously tried to connect with similar distribution centers and had a hard time finding a point of contact.

Business Analyst Report – John Ahler

Sales for July 2019 – April 2020 were eighteen million as compared to twelve million for the same period of 2020-21 which is a decrease of thirty-three percent. Net profit for the same period was 6.89 million for 2019-20 and 4.86 million for 2020-21, a decrease of 29%. Sales are gradually increasing each month. Reimbursements for repairs were $300,000 in 2019 and $137,000 in 2020 resulting in a decrease of 46% for that expense. Vendors are still getting complaints about holds on debit cards and should have labels on their machines to inform the customers that this is an authorization and not a charge. Labels can be ordered from Cantaloupe and John also recommended ordering a pass card to help test their machines. He advised vendors that they can customize the charge with a location which will help customers remember where the money was spent. G8 card readers will not be supported by the end of the year and should be replaced.

John did a coaching review with Paulette Williams in the Orange County courthouse in Orlando. This location has a coffee shop and vending. John also worked with new operator Ryan Akeley at the Palm Beach County courthouse snack bar. The business is slow and the volume needed to support a vendor is not there yet. We are monitoring the situation. John will be travelling to south Florida the week of June 14, 2021 to do monitoring reviews.

Compliance Officer Report – Alan Risk

Ninety of the 114 vendors required to achieve CEU compliance have met the requirement. Twenty-one have at least two CEUs and three have at least one CEUs. Vendors must achieve compliance by the Biennial which is scheduled for the end of August.

Three new vendors have been licensed since the March meeting; William Daniel, David Alvarez and Tyler Collins. All three are participating in the current selection cycle. There are currently two trainees in OJT and one trainee in class. Of the twelve vendors licensed in 2019 and 2020 seven have been awarded facilities.

On March 5, 2021 a vendor requested a grievance hearing regarding the Division’s decision to not award them a business opportunity as an administrative appointment and instead advertise it as a Type II opportunity. A grievance hearing was scheduled for March 18, 2021. On March 16, 2021 the claimant withdrew their request for a hearing. On May 12, 2021 a vendor requested a grievance hearing regarding the Division’s actions related to the changeover at a facility they managed on a temporary LOFA for two months. The vendor stated that terminating a LOFA after two months was both unfair and unprofitable. A grievance hearing was held on May 21, 2021. The panel considered the issues presented and voted unanimously in favor of the Division. The Director concurred with the panel’s recommendation.

Three facilities were awarded on the January 2021 selection cycle. Facilities 577 and 578, I-10 rest areas were awarded to Shannon Shelton. Facility 586, Orlando vending route was awarded to Kash Ahmed and Facility 569, Palm Beach County courthouse snack bar was awarded to Ryan Akeley. Six facilities are on the current selection cycle: Facilities 528, 579, 580 Jackson County rest areas; Facility 424, I-10 East rest area in Suwannee County; Facility 466, KSC snack bar; Facility 494, Orange County Courthouse vending and coffee shop; Facilities 112 and 628 Collier-Lee County vending route and Facility 352, Broward County snack bar. Ten applicants have applied. The exam will be held June 16 and interviews are planned at the Tampa DBS offices on July 12-13, 2021.

Regional/District Updates – All

Region 1 – Maureen Fink for Brian Ashworth, Janet Chernoff
The military dining contract with Hurlburt Field began on June 1. Wanda Feldsteen is the operator for this facility. A location at St. Andrews State Park will be added to Facility 620, Panama City vending route. Five generic drink machines have been ordered to replace the Coca-Cola machines at Tyndall AFB so that the operator can be competitive. We tried to secure Pepsi machines but the local company, Buffalo Rock was not interested in providing them to us. Legal is still working on the issue of the base allowing a third party to place Coke machines next to our machines. Two snack machines have been installed in Building 1 at Facility 470, Ft. Knox vending and micro market. Drink machines will installed by June 19 and it is not known when the micro market is expected to reopen. The facility is being operated by Jason Carpenter on a Type II. Four machines have been installed in Facility 632, DOT and a micro market is being discussed for the location. The building is expected to have 900 people when fully staffed. Vendor Joe Bragg resigned from his facility, rest areas in Jackson County. They are being operated on a Type II by Shannon Shelton and the facilities are on the current selection cycle. Deep cleanings are planned for all food service locations over the next week.

Facility 441, Larson Building cafeteria is fully opened for breakfast and lunch service. Facility 273, Collins snack bar is open for breakfast and lunch four days a week. The operator has tendered her resignation effective the end of August. The location will be offered as a Type II in July.

District 1 – Kurt Ponchak
Kurt has heard that 24 hour security is planned for rest areas and asked if the Agency could follow up to confirm the story.

District 2 – Mike Renaud
Mike has nothing to report.

Region 2 – Bernie Kaiserian
The Duval County Courthouse where Facility 33, snack is located fully opened in May. Sales are currently at 50% of historic sales for this facility. Sales are expected to increase with the courthouse lifting its restriction on access and the increase in jurors expected in July. Justin Davis is operating this facility. Facility 145, Federal Building snack bar is transitioning into a micro market. The location is being operated as a Type II by Josh Kimrey. Vendor Stefan Mitchell has successfully completed a year in his first facility, Facility 239 Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cafeteria. Facility 608, Gainesville-Lake City vending route operated by Natasha Ginarte is seeing record sales with each month seeing an increase over previous month. The new SunPass Pro is now available for sale and should help vending sales at the welcome centers. In April 2021 sales in the Region were down $60,000 as compared to 2019. Sales are impacted by closure of two rest areas for renovations and the two food service facilities that have not yet reopened. Overall, 14 facilities in Region 2 have seen record sales as compared to 2019.

District 3 – Mitzi Bowen
Nothing to report.

Region 3 – Jay Payne
Paulette Williams is operating Facility 494, Orange County Courthouse vending and coffee shop on a Type II. This facility is on the current selection cycle. Locations are opening up on Facility 285, Daytona Beach vending route. Jay recently visited Gamble Rogers State Park as they are interested in vending and laundry services. This location would be added to Facility 285. Facility 378, cafeteria at the Hurston building is scheduled to reopen after the Fourth of July holiday. Sales at Facility 624, East Orlando Vending route operated by Brenda Nicely-Meade are up 44%. Facility 461, I-75 rest area has closed for renovations and is expected to remain closed for two years. There is no change in the status of the facilities at Coleman Federal prison.

District 5 – David Stevens
David asked about the possibility of getting commissaries in Federal prisons. The program does not have a priority to put commissaries in prisons. The only commissary that the BBE has is in Krome Detention Center in Miami.

District 6 – Phil Hubbard
Everything is fine in his district. He is trying a new cooler at a location at KSC that allows a customer to swipe a credit card to enter. This is a possible alternative to a micro market. The micro market concept was previously suggested to KSC management but they were concerned about potential tampering by customers. Phil suggested that there is an opportunity to expand at KSC as he cannot keep up with the demand in the vehicle assembly building.

Region 4 – Tony Arduengo
Facility 31, Hillsborough County Courthouse snack bar will reopen on Monday, June 7. Only state employees are returning to the building rather the full staff as previously expected. Previously all the jurors came in on Monday, but now are being brought in smaller groups on a daily basis and are staying for shorter periods of time. The reopening of Facility 380, rest area on I-75 north Hillsborough County has been delayed until late July. Four rest areas have smart locks and they are working well. There are smart plugs at one facility which allows the operator to turn a machine back on remotely. The route combining Facility 112, Collier County vending with Facility 628, Lee County vending is on the current selection cycle. Tony has been replacing machines on this route. Four machines have been installed in a VA in Pasco County on Facility 272, Pasco-Hernando vending route. This facility should have better base sales within the next year. Facility 500, Pinellas County vending route received an upgrade when machines from Sarasota County locations were installed. Facility 360, I-75 southbound rest area in Pasco County has record sales due the temporary closure of the rest area north of the location. G10 card readers and a new drink machine have been installed at this facility. The DCF micro market on Facility 396, East Tampa vending route is fully reopening on Monday. The bed tower at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital is scheduled to open next year and will be added to Facility 396. This location will have eight machines.

District 7 – Jose Quintanilla
Jose confirmed that Facility 31 is slated to reopen on Monday. The operator has been approved to receive money from the funds designated for restaurant revitalization. Everything is good in his district and there are not too many issues.

District 8 – Mary Hayes
Mary had nothing to report.

Region 5 – Rafaella Diershaw
All food service locations in Region 5 are open and business is slowly improving. Ryan Akeley is operating Facility 469, Palm Beach County Courthouse snack bar. Business is starting out slowly at this location as jurors are not staying in the building as long. Business at the rest areas are coming back and the post office in West Palm is doing very well. Business is slowly improving on the vending routes.

District 9 – Joel Rose
Joel has talked to most of the vendors in his district. Interstate vending is doing almost as much business as they did prior to the pandemic. The IRS location on his route is moving to another building in the fall. The new building has a smaller storage space. Vendors in his area are having problems with both Coke and Pepsi. He received his first delivery from Coke in three weeks. Pepsi delivered everything on his order except Pepsi.

Region 6 – Maureen Fink/Mark Meyer
Maureen introduced the new Region 6 Business Consultant, Mark Meyer to the group. Mark has been doing the required new hire training for the past couple of weeks and is looking forward to meeting the vendors. He will have an opportunity to meet them when he and Maureen Fink do the equipment inventory. Sales at Facility 15, Dade County Courthouse snack are slowly increasing. Only one of the locations is open and sales are down 60%.  The jury side of Facility 156, Dade County Justice building snack bar is still closed but sales are improving. Facility 348, cafeteria at the State Regional Service Center is still closed as population has not returned to the building. Facility 455, snack bar in the Federal building in Miami was converted to vending. The two prisons are still closed with no definite reopening date. Sales are down between 10-20% for the vending routes and sales at the post office facilities are up 40%.

Roundtable Discussion – All

Phil Hubbard asked about getting vendors more involved with the committee meetings. He suggested reimbursing vendors for attendance at one meeting or having the meetings in other parts of the state. He also suggested giving CEU credit to vendors attending a committee meeting. It was also suggested that the meetings could be filmed with a webcam or put on Facebook Live. Orlando Ramirez asked about a Broward County building where building staff is selling snacks, fruit and coffee. Rafaella is planning on a meeting with the building and the agency will follow up if needed. Jose Quintanilla told the group that he, Terri Lindstrom and Kurt Ponchak are planning a mentoring session on Wednesday, June 9 with new licensees. The subject will be the selection interview.

Mitzi Bowen made a motion to adjourn and Phil Hubbard seconded the motion. Adjourned at 4:25pm.

 

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