State Committee of Vendors

Orlando, FL - August 8 and 9, 2008

Mr. Tom Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 10 A.M. on Friday, August 9. Mr. John Klindtworth called the roll.

Attendees: District One absent; District Two – Stephanie Zolin; District Three -  Don Tuell; District Four – Dan Angelicola; District Five -  Phil Bluschke; District Six -  Randall Crosby; District Seven – Tom Saunders; District Eight -  Gyorke Alger; District Nine -  Joel Rose; District Ten absent

Agency staff: Mike Elliott, Kathy Murphey, Gene Newcomb, Kathleen Crosson, Maureen Fink, Bernie Kaisarian

Guests: Jim Warth, Vic Rosario, Chuck Fickett and Steve Arbeene, a new recruit who is scheduled to begin training in January, 2009.

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved without objection.

Mr. Elliott announced that the final interviews for the Director’s position will take place on Wednesday, August 13. He also informed the Committee that he did not advance to the final interview.

Ms. Murphey reported that the position left vacant by Nell Sewell’s retirement has been upgraded to include more financial skills to comply with the OPPAGA report regarding fiscal accountability. The position will be advertised in late August and the Agency hopes it will be filled by the end of September.

The contract with Barnie’s Coffee Service at the Capitol Cafeteria was terminated June 30 with full agreement by the manager and the Agency. Mr. Warth reported that the new coffee company is doing a good job and that coffee sales have increased.

Ms. Murphey reported that the Cantaloupe software system for remote tracking of vending machines is not cost effective and the Agency will not purchase any more of the units.

Ms. Murphey reported that the new Director of the Fiscal Department has announced his intent to change the way vendors are reimbursed for repairs. If these changes take place vendors will be required to provide one of the following types of payment verification: credit card receipt; debit card receipt; copy of bank statement; photocopy of cancelled check, front and back. No effective date has yet been set so we have time to respond.

Several members voiced opposition to this plan, as it will inevitably delay reimbursement for repairs. It was pointed out that the current system has worked well for several years and that it is in compliance with commonly accepted accounting practice.

Mr. Elliott will arrange a full conference call to discuss this issue and Dan Angelicola will be a participant along with the Chairman.

Some vendors have received correspondence saying they will receive IRS Form 1099. This is not accurate and anyone who receives a letter about it should call Ms. Murphey. She will send an e-mail to all vendors on this subject.

Mr. Saunders asked about the font size used for the monthly business report, informing the committee that Susan Johnson had told him she could not see the form. Ms. Murphey said that Susan has a CCTV and will use it for print documents. She also said that Susan receives and date stamps the reports but does not check them.

Ms. Murphey then reported that our sole source purchasing contract with Crane National has been disallowed.  Another company submitted a number of technical questions worded in a way that was actually an attack on our contract with Crane and the Purchasing Office put the contract out for competitive bid. The closing date was August 14.

The question was asked, what do we do if we have to go with the low bid and buy machines that are unsuitable. Ms. Murphey replied that the State’s main priority is accountability and value. The State really doesn’t care about verbal claims of suitability, the state must periodically examine improvement options. Mr. Spiliotis stated that we must combat this change, that using all different brands of equipment will create huge problems.

Mr. Spiliotis stated that vending operations may want to pursue adding credit and/or debit card options for payment. These are in use at some food service locations and the effect on sales has been positive.  

Ms. Murphey reported on training, stating that there are currently 19 referrals. Eight did not complete training, eleven are now licensed and of these seven are operating facilities. These numbers are approximately the same as for 20 years ago. The current tracking system is relatively new and the Agency will continue to monitor to see if this trend continues.

Ms. Murphey gave an update on the uniform menu plan for snack bars that we are looking into with Sysco Foods. They gave a complete demonstration of food items, food costs, pricing guidelines, profit percentage and preparation instructions for employees. They offer a basic sandwich unit that can be added to if needed. Some members of the committee said they do not want to deal with Sysco, and were told that there is no requirement that they do so. Many food service companies offer the same type of service. But we need to create a standardized consistent product in the snack bars. This will increase customer satisfaction and profits.

Ms. Murphey recently met with Randall Baker from Department of Management Services (DMS) who has put out an invitation to open negotiations with a professional food service company to manage the DOE cafeteria located in the Capital Building. The Agency is also looking at this type of arrangement for three facilities that have been identified as at risk. These are Collins, FDLE and Claude Pepper. DMS wants to include the vending at these locations and DBS has rejected that proposal.

The vending operation on the 16th floor of the DOE building is very successful.

Mr. Rose said that Louis Ritter has contacted him about a company that may be taking over the operation of Alligator Alley and that this company wants the rest areas on that roadway. Ms. Murphey said she has received no information about this.

Ms. Murphey has sent an e-mail with a first draft for auditing BEP facilities. We will follow up on this at the November meeting. Mr. Saunders stated that the consultants are the best equipped to monitor facilities and to spot red flags that may indicate a lack of accurate reporting.

Ms. Murphey reported that for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008.  BEP revenues were approximately $590,000 and that we have sufficient operating funds. Mr. Elliott shifts funds from Client Services to BEP and vice-versa as the need arises.

Mr. Elliott plans to invite the Commissioner of Education, Eric Smith, to attend our meetings. He will also ask the new Director to do the same. These officials need to gain a better understanding of the program and how it benefits blind people.

Mr. Elliott said that he believes frivolous grievances should not be heard. After some discussion it was decided by consensus that the Agency doesn’t have the authority to declare a grievance frivolous. The question of getting the Grievance Board’s report out within the timeline stated in rule was discussed. It appears that this is not likely if the Grievance Board meets in person, although in the past it has been accomplished. A suggestion was made that the board could meet by teleconference. Ms. Alger moved that this be implemented. Mr. Saunders seconded the motion which passed by unanimous roll call vote.

Mr. Spiliotis addressed the subject of allowing grievant and applicants for facilities to demand that a member of the panel or board be prohibited from serving. He said that this is unacceptable, that we must trust the integrity of our appointees and have confidence that if they perceive any conflict they will recluse themselves. He suggested that when Mr. Newcomb receives such a request he refer it to either the Chair in the case of selections or the Chair of the Grievance Board if the request is from a grievant. He also suggested that if an Agency member’s fitness to serve is questioned that Mr. Newcomb should deal with that. The member in question can then be contacted and an appropriate determination will be made. Mr. Newcomb agreed to this proposal.

Mr. Spiliotis stated that he believes it is inappropriate to allow a grievant to remain in the hearing room once the Board is ready to begin its deliberations. Mr. Newcomb agreed. A discussion followed as to how to accomplish this when the board meets by teleconference. Mr. Newcomb said that the grievant can be on a separate line that will be cut off when the board goes into deliberations. The committee agreed to this by verbal consensus.

The question of appointing Mr. Dan Gerschick as an alternate to the Selection panel was reintroduced. He has stated his willingness to serve in this capacity. Mr. Rose made the nomination and Mr. Bluschke seconded. Mr. Gerschick was confirmed by unanimous roll call vote. Mr. Newcomb will notify him of his appointment.

The proposal to amend the selection protocol by allowing extra credit points to managers who have shown exemplary performance in a distressed facility was reintroduced. Ms. Alger offered the motion seconded by Mr. Rose. The Committee voted unanimously to adopt the proposal. Appendix 1 denotes the complete text of the amendment.

Mr. Newcomb reported on the Agency’s efforts to recoup outstanding working capital debt from vendors.  Thirty-two letters have been sent out informing indebted vendors that if they do not set up and honor a repayment plan it will be turned over to a collection agency and their license may be revoked. To date seven replies have been received. One person sent a check for $300 and agreed to pay that amount each month. Mr. Newcomb will give an update on this at the November meeting.

Mr. Spiliotis said that we need a complete review of working capital amounts and revise any that are not appropriate for the facility. Ms. Murphey agreed and said that we will need to create a formula to determine appropriate levels for working capital. A letter will be sent to all vendors to help in this project and a proposal will be offered at the November meeting.

The next topic discussed was how to help vendors familiarize themselves with the testing and interview components of the selection process.  Mr. Spiliotis said that he would not want to burden the Selection Panel with holding frivolous interviews.  On the subject of testing, he suggested that sample questions could be posted to the BEP Web site. Mr. Newcomb said he would use three questions from each source category. Another idea put forth was to add a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section to the Web site.

Mr. Spiliotis also suggested that we include a mock but reality based interview workshop at the 2009 Seminar. This was met with unanimous approval and will be set up. Interested vendors will need to pre-register for this training session.

Mr. Spiliotis introduced the possibility of adding some penalty to be applied to vendors who apply for facilities and then decline for no good reason. Mr. Rose voiced opposition to this idea. Mr. Newcomb said that this situation is not a real problem. No action was taken.

Mr. Newcomb reported that sometimes the selection process is slowed down when an applicant has a choice of several facilities. He now has in place a policy that the applicant has 24 hours to state his choice by e-mail, phone or FAX.

The following clause of the selection protocol was brought to the table for discussion and possible revision:

The high scoring five (5) qualifying candidates for each facility and anyone scoring within ten percent (10 percent) of the highest scoring applicant for that facility will be included in the interview group.

There was discussion as to whether this should read “and” or “or” and Ms. Alger stated she thought it should just be the high scoring five. After further discussion Ms. Alger offered a motion to amend this clause to include only the high scoring five applicants for each facility in the interview. Mr. Saunders seconded and the motion carried by unanimous roll call vote.

Mr. Spiliotis recess the meeting at 4:45 P.M. He reconvened the meeting at 9:05 on Saturday, August 9.

All previous attendees were present. Jim Anderson joined the gallery.

Preliminary plans for the 2009 Seminar were discussed. The Rosen Plaza has been booked and Ms. Alger agreed to chair the event.  We will use the same format as in 2007 but will expand on it, inviting more vendors to set up tables in the open alcove space. The emphasis will be on assistive technology. As usual there will be a Saturday night party with entertainment. In addition to the selection interview workshop we will include one on monthly report preparation.

Mr. Spiliotis addressed several selection issues. It was agreed that Mr. Newcomb will send the Chair a copy of each bid sheet before it is published on the Web site. The test date and interview week information will be part of each bid sheet. On the Monday after the selection panel adjourns Mr. Newcomb needs to meet with Mr. Elliott and Ms. Murphey to confirm appointments so that the notification process can begin quickly.

Mr. Spiliotis then stated that Selection Panel members must not under any circumstances inform anyone of their recommendations before the results have been made public. He stressed that membership on the panel is a position of trust and that we must see to it that the integrity of the process is upheld. Ms. Alger added that this applies equally to the Grievance Board.

Ms. Stephanie Zolin is leaving District Two and if the alternate declines to ascend an election will need to be scheduled. The alternate position in District Seven is vacant and filling it is at the discretion of the District.

Mr. Angelicola requested that a schedule for district elections be developed. Mr. Newcomb will have that ready by April 15, 2009.

Mr. Rose asked for information as to repair costs for fiscal 2007-2008. Ms. Murphey replied that they were roughly the same as for the previous year.

Mr. Spiliotis opened the floor for a roundtable discussion.

District Nine - Mr. Rose reported that the cafeteria managed by Don Felder is undergoing renovations. Building management is willing to invest in this effort and the Agency needs to purchase new equipment.  Menu issues regarding healthy options are being worked out.

District Eight - Ms. Alger reported that it is remarkably quiet.

District Seven - Mr. Saunders reported by proxy that there had been one LOFA cancellation that resulted in a grievance. The hearing has been held and Mr. Newcomb stated that the Board upheld the Agency action.

District Two - Ms. Zolin expressed concern that trainees may not be adequately prepared to transition into management. Ms. Fink observed that in many cases new managers aren’t willing to come to the facility for transitional orientation. Mr. Spiliotis said the solution is to make that mandatory. Mr. Angelicola suggested adding transition skills to basic training. Ms. Murphey will see to it that each outgoing and incoming manager and the regional consultant receive a copy of the transition checklist and make it clear that each item must be satisfactorily completed.

District Three - Mr. Tuell reported that all is quiet and that Mark Turner is scheduled to take over #424, an interstate rest area, on August 29.

District Four - Mr. Angelicola reported that all facilities are running smoothly.

District Five - Mr. Bluschke reported that he has been in contact with Ed Sanders at the new vending operation in Mulberry. Monthly sales are in the $9 – 12 thousand range. Mr. Sanders wants an OMNI bar coded reader and Mr. Elliott said that equipment requests are made through the Consultant.

He also reported being informed by Larry Powell, the manager at the Winter Haven postal location, that the machines in the lobby have been removed. Ms. Murphey confirmed this and said that the postal authorities will not allow them to be put back in.

Mr. Bluschke also said that the September bid sheet will include the southbound interstate rest area known as Bushnell, but that its official designation is Webster and it should be shown that way on the advertisement.

Mr. Spiliotis suggested that the Mulberry facility would be more logically a part of Region Four because it is much closer to Tampa than to Orlando. He requested that Ms. Murphey make that change and she agreed.

Mr. Spiliotis then spoke of the need to ensure that BEP managers actually maintain a managerial presence at their facilities. He stressed the public relations aspect of this, saying that we need to present ourselves as active professional managers. We also need to supervise our employees, thereby ensuring that the facility is kept clean, monies are handled properly etc. Mr. Elliott said he would like to require a minimum of four hours daily, five days a week. This met with little enthusiasm, as every facility has different requirements, the subject will be discussed at the November meeting.

District Six - Mr. Crosby reported that all is quiet.

Mr. Spiliotis asked Ms. Murphey if the one-year term for first time Type I LOFA holders approved at the May meeting had been implemented. She replied in the affirmative.

Jim Anderson brought up the subject of the vending machines at Patrick Air Force Base, saying that about three years ago he had agreed to tend a small numbers of machines there as a convenience to the Agency. He said that the original understanding was that DBS would be given the contract for all vending at the base but that there has been no progress made. He has researched the law and believes that our Randolph-Sheppard priority is being ignored. Mr. Elliott said that the Agency will pursue this matter.

Mr. Elliott reported that Mary Hayes is the new President of the Florida chapter of NAFB and that Maria Reynolds is the Vice-President.

There being no further business, Mr. Spiliotis adjourned the meeting at 11 A.M.

Respectfully submitted,
Gyorke Alger, Secretary

Appendix 1

Amendment to the Selection Protocol Approved August 8, 2008

A licensee who accepts a Type II LOFA for a facility that is deemed to be damaged or at risk is eligible to receive a maximum of five (5) credit points in the selection for that facility if he or she has significantly improved the overall performance of the facility.

These points are added to the applicant’s overall score.

These points may be awarded on a sliding scale to be determined by the Selection Panel upon receipt of relevant documentation from the Compliance Director. Said documentation shall include evidence of improved sales and profits, evidence of improved cleanliness and sanitation at the facility, any reports from building management acknowledging improvements, any customer surveys that have taken place, the quarterly visitation reports of the Consultant and any other relevant documents.

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