STATE COMMITTEE OF VENDORS
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, FLORIDA - MARCH 14 and 15, 2008
Mr. Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 10 A.M. on Friday, March 14, 2008 and asked the Vice-Chairperson to call the roll. Mr. Klindtworth did so.
Districts One, Two, Three, Six and Ten.
- District Four, Dan Angelicola;
- District Five, Phil Bluschke;
- District Seven, Tom Saunders;
- District Eight, Gyorke Alger;
- District Nine, Joel Rose;
- Chairperson Tom Spiliotis and
- Vice-Chairperson John Klindtworth.
A quorum was established.
- Michael Elliott, Bureau Chief
- Gene Newcomb, Compliance Director.
- Consultants Maureen Fink, Bernie Kaisarian and Raquel Falero.
- David Kaplan,
- District Nine Alternate; Jim Warth,
- District Seven Alternate, Charles Hackney,
- Krekor Sampadian and
- Craig Kiser, former Director of Division of Blind Services (DBS).
Mr. Saunders moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Mr. Rose seconded and the minutes were approved without objection.
Mr. Spiliotis reported that no meeting schedule for the remainder of 2008 has been established.
Mr. Kiser gave an informative presentation about his activities with the Blind Services Foundation of Florida, a non-profit fundraising corporation founded in 2004 to find alternate funding sources for DBS. Large corporate sponsors are difficult to attract as they require a track record before they are willing to commit funds. Mr. Kiser, upon learning that the position of Director was open made a proposal and was named to the post on January 10, 2008. He is involving the major blind advocacy organizations in several innovative projects, one of which will increase the revenues derived from the biker’s tag registrations from $20, 000 annually to as much as $60,000 with matching funds. Two major fundraisers are scheduled for November of this year.
Mr. Kiser wants to involve the food service outlets of BEP by asking the managers to place a change bank on their counters with signage provided by the foundation. Mr. Saunders asked the question; “Where does the money go?” Mr. Kiser responded that the goal of the Foundation is the creation of an Independent Commission for the Blind, an entity whose members would be appointed by the Governor and the heads of advocacy groups. The Commission would administer the Division of Blind Services and through its independent fundraising sources and Federal match money eliminate the need for Legislative funding of services to blind people. Thirteen States now have this operation and the results have been very positive, with higher rates of employment in the blind population and higher average earnings.
If the Commission is approved by the Legislature, its long term funding goal is to enact a five-cent surcharge on all corrective eyewear, to be added at the manufacturer’s end. The seven-year projection is that this step would create $200 million, which would become the basis for a trust fund that would replace legislative funding.
Mr. Spiliotis asked if equipment purchases would still be conducted under the constraints of State law. Mr. Kiser replied in the affirmative but added that every Agency has its own purchasing rules and that the commission could streamline the process while maintaining compliance. He added that the hiring and pay schedules for counselors could be taken out of existing constraints and that this would be a great benefit.
He stated that the Director would be the only paid member of the Commission and that all others would serve as volunteers, being reimbursed for travel and out of pocket expenses only.
Mr. Rose asked if the BEP vendors would have a voice or a seat on the Commission. Mr. Kiser said that he believes we should have a voice, but that a conflict may exist if we have a financial position or stand to gain financially by having a seat, as State law prohibits those individuals or groups from serving on a Board that governs funding. He pledged to explore options on our behalf.
Mr. Hackney opined that the ICFB would increase the Committee’s ability to participate fully in the development of BEP.
Ms. Alger offered a motion to support the fundraising activities of the Foundation. Mr. Rose seconded and the motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Kiser can be reached by telephone at 1-850-345-9122 and by email at email@example.com.
Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Elliott for a report on Agency activities. Mr. Elliott stated that the training at DOE is going very well. He also reported that Mr. Kaisarian’s retirement was short-lived and that he has returned to his post as Region Two Consultant.
With reference to the financial documents supplied by the Agency, Mr. Spiliotis stated that several vendors had expressed concern that this might be a precursor to an attempt to increase the set aside levy. Mr. Elliott stated that this is not the case, but that RSA had found in its annual review that DBS was not complying with the Federal rule that financial information must be shared with the Committee.
Mr. Rose expressed concern that unassigned machine revenues have decreased substantially from several years ago. Mr. Spiliotis reminded the Committee that we lost a very large contract in Dade County and that many unassigned locations have been incorporated into new facilities. Mr. Rose said that Coke has sublet some locations to private companies and that we may not be receiving those revenues. Mr. Sampadian reminded the Committee that unassigned revenue was at $120,000 or less before we contracted with VISINITY to service these locations and that we are in fact a little better off now than before that action.
Mr. Spiliotis expressed concern about how the Agency monitors the collection and remittance of unassigned revenues by VISINITY. Mr. Elliott responded that we receive complete reports and that Ms. Murphey reviews them every month. He further stated that Ms. Nell Sewell verifies that we have received the monies due. Mr. Spiliotis said that we must take steps to ensure that we are maximizing this sector of BEP and asked if VISINITY can be invited to our next meeting. Mr. Elliott replied that he will do so.
Mr. Sampadian gave a brief overview of the mechanism for acquiring Federal match money. It is based on general revenues, collected set aside and unassigned machine revenue with a maximum of $895,000 in budgetary authority.
Mr. Spiliotis brought up the subject of working capital amounts that may need to be altered to meet changed circumstances at a facility. He used the example of the Coleman prison vending locations, where one class of machines was eliminated altogether, thereby reducing the need for working capital by about $20,000. He asked Mr. Elliott if the BEP can require the return of unneeded working capital when this occurs and Mr. Elliott said that he will investigate this possibility.
Mr. Rose asked about how the problem with exit inventory shortages is being addressed. Mr. Elliott replied that there is a system in place to deal with this situation. Mr. Spiliotis stated that existing policies requiring the attendance of the Consultant or a representative thereof and both the outgoing and incoming managers, plus the extension and verification of the product inventory and cash count must be implemented without exception. Mr. Elliott stated that this is being done.
Mr. Spiliotis and Mr. Hackney then gave an informal presentation about a promotional experiment they are trying at their I-4 rest areas. They recently attended a seminar sponsored by a local broadcast company and decided that a series of radio ads was worth a trial investment. They are using the same ad for both sides of I-4 and these are being aired on a powerhouse country station. It will take some time to determine if the ad campaign makes a measurable difference in sales.
Mr. Spiliotis recessed the meeting for lunch and reconvened at 1:30 P.M. All were present
Mr. Newcomb was asked for his report. He informed the Committee that the interviews for the January selection cycle had been postponed and re-advertised because conflicting information had originally been published. He also said that having the bid announcements on the first business day of the month was creating scheduling conflicts and suggested the 15th would probably work better.
Ms. Alger moved to change the bid posting date to the 15th or first business day thereafter of January, May and September. Mr. Bluschke seconded and the motion carried by unanimous roll call vote.
Mr. Newcomb also requested that the Committee appoint one or two additional alternates to the Selection Panel.
Ms. Alger nominated Jim Warth, who stated he would be willing to serve. Mr. Saunders seconded the nomination and Mr. Warth was confirmed by unanimous roll call vote.
Mr. Rose said that Mr. Dan Gerschick had expressed a desire to become more actively involved with BEP projects and suggested that he be contacted about serving on the Selection Panel as an Alternate. Several attempts to reach him by telephone throughout the day and evening failed, so Mr. Spiliotis will follow up later.
Mr. Newcomb reported that the BEP Policy Manual is being updated. Policies approved since the Manual was first written will be incorporated and a review of policies approved but not implemented will take place. The updates will be distributed to the Committee for review and input prior to general distribution.
The Agency response to the OPAGGA has been submitted. Mr. Spiliotis requested that the Chairman be copied on this type of correspondence and Mr. Elliott agreed.
Mr. Bluschke asked the Committee to revisit the working capital shortfall motion that failed by one vote at the previous meeting. Ms. Alger expressed support for this and said that the main reason the motion failed was that the majority believed the limitation of one non-renewable Type II LOFA would in most cases not provide sufficient time for a vendor to repay the working capital debt. She suggested the addition of language that would allow the Agency to extend the Type II LOFa if the vendor was making regular payments to reduce the debt.
A general discussion of how best to deal with working capital debt ensued, much of which was geared toward prevention of such occurrences. Mr. Angelicola suggested that the Agency require an annual fiscal inventory of all working capital, to include product and all facility cash. Mr. Newcomb offered the idea that a minimum of 75% of initial working capital amount be required and that if it was less than that repayment be initiated as soon as possible.
Mr. Kaisarian stated that the Consultants can make judgment calls as to the level of working capital just by observing the amount of product on hand, checking dates and even inspecting the vendor’s business records. The LOFA authorizes the Agency to do these things.
Mr. Elliott suggested that vendors with a working capital debt should only be allowed to hold Type II LOFA’s until the debt is satisfied, and that timely payments must be made. He was asked if he meant that people with debt should not be permitted to apply for a new location and he replied in the affirmative.
Ms. Alger then read the revised wording of the motion to create a policy dealing with working capital debt, the text of which appears below:
“When a facility changeover takes place and a working capital shortfall occurs it should be paid immediately. If the outgoing manager is unable to pay all or part of the shortfall, any subsequent LOFA shall be written as a Type II. If the debt has not been satisfied by the expiration of any such Type II LOFA, it may be renewed by the Agency if the licensee has made a consistent good faith effort to do so, defined as timely monthly payments as per a repayment agreement.
So long as a vendor has any outstanding a working capital debt he/she may not apply for any business opportunity.
This policy shall take effect with the May, 2008 Selection round.”
Mr. Bluschke moved to enact this policy. Mr. Rose seconded. Mr. Klindtworth called the roll and the motion carried unanimously. Mr. Elliott signified his approval of the policy.
Mr. Spiliotis introduced the subject of a facility situation that needs to be addressed as a result of the passing of longtime vendor, Mr. Richard Lovette. At the time of his death Mr. Lovette was managing five separate locations in the Panhandle under one contract. This happened over a period of years, the original facility being a small snack bar. A few machines were added from time to time, and then four full rest areas at east and west bound Milton and Crestview. The snack bar was closed and a fifth small vending location was added.
The sales for the current five locations were reported at $350,000 in 2007.
These locations were not advertised on the January bid posting because no information about their individual sales was available. Ms. Debby Malmberg was asked to manage and track them individually to determine if any or all can function as stand-alone facilities. Mr. Spiliotis mentioned the possibility of using them as “starter” interstate rest areas. The sales are as follows:
- Milton East Bound January - $2727.65 February - $5416.65
- Milton West Bound January - $2937.35 February - $4321.25
- Crestview East Bound January - $3483.32 February - $5120.15
- Crestview West Bound January - $4583.30 February - $6558.10
- Ponce de Leon (small off-highway vending) - January - $1766.60 February - $2651.50
All of these locations have been under managed for some time; a result of Mr. Lovette’s declining health. There are no bill changers or ice cream machines at any of the locations. The initial inventory showed outdated product and many product duplications, and these factors contributed to initially high out of pocket expenses by Ms. Malmberg.
Mr. Kaisarian cited other factors that might impact the decision to separate or find a different way of dealing with these locations. They are in rural areas, not close to a major metropolitan center. There is no Sam’s Club outlet within easy driving distance of them. Housing may be difficult to find within easy driving distance.
Mr. Spiliotis agreed that these factors might limit the number of vendors interested in the locations but did not feel that it was necessarily a reason to keep them combined indefinitely. He suggested that this issue be tabled until a special meting by teleconference can be scheduled for May, thereby providing four months of sales data to work with. Mr. Newcomb said he could set a meeting for May 7th at 3:30 P.M. Motion was made and seconded to table the subject to said meeting date. Mr. Newcomb will send formal notice of a special meeting with the phone number included. Motion carried without dissent.
Mr. Spiliotis then asked the Consultants for status reports for their regions.
Ms. Fink reported for Region Four.
The operator at the St. Petersburg Police Station Snack Bar is on warning status. He has addressed the serious cleaning issues that resulted in complaints from the building manager and has been given a deadline by which a supplier he refused to pay must be satisfied.
The new manager at 1313 in Tampa is settling in well. This is her first LOFA and Ms. Fink thinks she will do well.
The new manager at the Manasota Post Office has a deficiency with regard to paying a supplier, but Ms. Fink believes it will be corrected.
The operator of the Ft. Myers vending route has made tremendous improvement in the quality of service during the last six weeks and it is hoped that he will continue to do so.
Mr. Spiliotis said that we should pursue the vending at the airport.
Ms. Falero reported for Region Three.
The new private sector vending facility in Mulberry is almost ready to open.
The warehouse at Coleman is not quite ready but Jose Formosa is doing a good job at this difficult location. He is operating on a Type II LOFA. It will probably not be bid out until September, as there were many problems when he took over and he has spent his own money to keep the operation going. Mr. Spiliotis asked Mr. Elliott to settle the repair bills due Chuck Bash.
Jim Warth mentioned the ongoing renovations at the SWFWMD cafeteria in Brooksville. He stated that DBS has bought two new salad bar units for the facility, one being the wrong size. The host Agency has invested heavily in the project, providing new ceiling tiles at a cost of $8,000, new tables and chairs, paint etc.
Mr. Kaisarian reported for Region Two.
He has three facilities on the bid sheet. There are two first-time managers in the Region and both are doing well. The BMC cafeteria in Jacksonville is closed and the facility has been converted to full vending. The new vending facility at Blunt Island is doing well. Currently there are no problem facilities in his Region and there is opportunity for growth at several locations.
Mr. Spiliotis reported that he has been investigating BEP training programs in other States and that we need to begin approaching our training from a national standpoint. We should take the best elements from other States and create a standard training product that can be delivered in one national training center.
Mr. Spiliotis cited inconsistencies in our training program. One person now has a “provisional license” and is managing a facility without having been to Daytona or passing any of the module tests. This does not meet the conditions set forth in the BEP Policy Manual or updates thereto that have not yet been published. These conditions are: extended OJT comes first; the licensure exam must be taken and passed; the facility given on an administrative appointment must have been unsuccessfully advertised three times.
Mr. Spiliotis also mentioned Aramatic facilities that are being operated at a loss, even though when vendor managed they showed a profit. Aramatic has requested subsidies for these locations and DBS has refused and will hold Aramatic to its contract which is for $120,000 annually. The locations could be managed profitably if labor costs were lowered and Aramatic did the vending instead of subbing it out to third party contractors.
Mr. Spiliotis stated that the cafeteria in the DOE building may or may not be the ideal location for a training center, but that it cannot function as such with both a training manager and a BEP manager under LOFA, as the potential conflicts would undermine both activities.
Mr. Saunders suggested that a small to mid size snack bar with vending located outside of the Tally area be designated as a statewide training center. This would require a new position being created and funded. The consensus was that this is highly unlikely if not impossible.
Mr. Spiliotis then said that we should probably get out of training altogether and turn it over to professionals. Mr. Elliott disagreed.
Mr. Spiliotis further stated that he was wrong in his previous belief that the DOE cafeteria should be the training center. Its size and complicated layout make it a very difficult place to navigate and people in training need to start with something smaller. He recommended that the Agency investigate other possible locations, such as SWFWMD or 1313 in Tampa. He again stressed that the training facility does not have to be in tally.
Mr. Spiliotis recessed the meeting at 5 P.M. and reconvened at 9 A.M. on March 15th.
Mr. Klindtworth called the roll. All members present from the previous day were in attendance.
There was a discussion about the consultant survey/questionnaire approved by the Committee and the Bureau Chief at the November, 2007 meeting that was to have been incorporated into the Selection protocol with the January, 2008 bid cycle. Mr. Newcomb reported that Ms. Murphey objected to some of the questions on the grounds that they were “too vague”. Neither the Chairperson nor the Transfer & Promotion subcommittee were advised of this; nor that the element was not implemented. Ms. Alger stated that the document had gone through several revisions before the final draft was submitted to the Agency on December 15, 2007 and that no problems with it had been brought to the subcommittee’s attention. Ms. Alger objected to the Operations Director overriding the Bureau Chief.
Ms. Alger will transmit the document again to all parties and the subcommittee will make any changes deemed appropriate.
Mr. Kaisarian said that the Consultants would need sufficient lead time to gather the required information. He was reminded that most of what is being asked should be available from the quarterly visitation reports.
There was a discussion of how to verify compliance with the requirement that vendors maintain adequate liability insurance. Ms. Fink said that a photocopy of the paid statement marked with the date and check number was insufficient, as the operator could cancel the policy without the Agency’s knowledge.
Mr. Warth suggested that vendors be required to add the Consultant as duplicate certificate holders and the insurance company would then transmit the certificate to them. If the policy were cancelled the Consultant would be notified by the insurance company.
Motion was made and seconded to implement this action. Mr. Klindtworth called the roll and the motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Rose stated that when he calls Ms. Murphey with questions from his District she does not return his call. Mr. Elliott will take care of the problem.
A question was raised as to whether the Consultants are observing the requirement that they verify all monthly reports in their Regions have been filed. Mr. Kaisarian and Ms. Fink responded that some reports have been posted by the 5th day of the month and that most are posted by the 15th. The staff person responsible for inputting the data recently passed away but the new person will start soon.
Mr. Spiliotis returned to the problem of inconsistencies in training, licensure and administrative appointments. Some people go through training, OJT and licensure as set forth in policy and are either placed on a temporary LOFA or work in a facility until the next bid cycle. Others seem to appear in Tally with no history or references and are granted “provisional” or “probationary” licenses and administrative appointments with no semblance of guidelines or a consistent policy. He asked the Committee for a resolution opposing this unprofessional activity on the part of the Agency
Mr. Saunders offered the following resolution, seconded by Mr. Rose:
It is the sense of the Committee that no unlicensed person may be granted a LOFA and that licensure shall be done according to rule.
The resolution was passed by unanimous support of each Committee member present.
Mr. Rose asked that new licensees not be appointed as trainers without at least one year’s managerial experience. Mr. Elliott said he would consult with Mr. Newcomb. Mr. Spiliotis stressed the point that our goal is consistent, fair and equal treatment for all trainees.
Mr. Spiliotis opened the floor to a round table discussion.
Mr. Angelicola from District Four reported that everyone was very pleased that Bernie Kaisarian had returned so quickly. There is one problem manager in the district but Bernie is on top of the situation.
Mr. Bluschke reported that all is well in district Five.
Mr. Saunders from District Seven gave a follow-up to Ms. Fink’s earlier report about the problems at the St. Pete Police Station snack bar. The situation may be on the upswing, but the manager has a deadline of March 28th to pay an invoice that to date he has refused to pay.
Mr. Spiliotis brought up the problem of multiple LOFA cancellations, asking at what point do we revoke the license. Mr. Elliott is being more pro-active on this issue than in the past, as he understands fully that repeated failures damage the program. Mr. Elliott also seeks input from the Consultants before deciding to revoke a license.
Ms. Alger reported that other than those mentioned by Ms. Fink there are no major problems in District Eight.
Mr. Rose reported for District Nine. At the snack bar managed by Don Felder the building manager insisted that “health foods” be offered in a snack machine, but the sales were so low that the experiment was dropped after Mr. Rose negotiated with the building manager. The City will refurbish the space and DBS will purchase a salad bar. Food sales at the Post Office on Mr. Rose’s route have been stopped. The Post Office authorities want a commission of 10 – 15 percent of sales. This will not happen. The snack bar in Fort Lauderdale has been closed, full vending may be added.
Mr. Spiliotis reported that RSA is working on a plan to get all vending in Postal locations assigned to BEP nationwide, although it would be voluntary. If this goes forward the fee paid to the Postal system would be standardized at 1.5 percent. This provision would require an exemption for existing Florida Postal locations. Another option that would be available is to allow third party contracts at a commission rate of three percent.
Mr. Spiliotis brought up the subject of unlicensed persons being allowed to apply when they are in the final stage of their OJT and can reasonably be expected to become licensed by the time of the interviews. He stated that this is not offered consistently to all trainees. Mr. Elliott said that he will consult with Mr. Newcomb and try to get a consistent policy in place. A clarification was added, that if the person is not licensed by the time of the interview no LOFA may be issued.
Mr. Saunders moved to adopt this policy. Mr. Rose seconded and the motion carried by unanimous roll call vote.
Mr. Hackney inquired as to whether applicants are asked by the Selection Panel if they have visited the facility for which they have applied. Ms. Fink replied that the Panel does ask questions of the applicants to determine if they know anything about the locations for which they are applying.
Mr. Warth spoke of a problem with the testing system that needs to be addressed. He stated that the start time seems to be fluid, people are allowed to come in late and this is disruptive to those already taking the test. He believes that the start time should be carved in stone, no late arrivals allowed to take the test. The Committee and Mr. Elliott voiced full agreement with this position. Mr. Elliott will see to it that Mr. Newcomb provides clear instructions to all test givers that cannot be misinterpreted and this information will be posted on the test information section of the BEP web site.
There being no further business, Mr. Spiliotis adjourned the meeting at approximately 11:30 A.M.
Gyorke Alger, Secretary