Quarterly Meeting of the State Committee of Vendors

Friday, August 27, 2021

Chairman James Warth called the meeting to order at 8:30am. Vice Chairman Terri Lindstrom 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; Sead Bekric, District 8; 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; Brian Ashworth, Region 1 Business Consultant; Bernie Kaiserian, Region 2 Business Consultant, Jay Payne, Region 3 Business Consultant; Anthony Arduengo, Region 4 Business Consultant; Rafaella Diershaw, Region 5 Business Consultant; Janet Chernoff, Administrative Services Consultant; Mary Ellen Harding, Administrative Assistant.

Licensed Vendors: Debby Malmberg, District 1 Alternate; Colton Knight, District 2 Alternate; TJ McCormick, District 7 Alternate; Mary Hayes, District 8 Alternate; Alton Palmore.

Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Instructor Steve Moss and trainee Patrick Martin.

Joel Rose made the motion to adopt the agenda. Passed without objection by all members. Janet Chernoff read a synopsis of the minutes from the June meeting. The full minutes had been emailed prior to the meeting. Kurt Ponchak made a motion to accept the minutes. Seconded by Jose Quintanilla. Passed without objection.

BEP Updates – Bill Findley

Sales for the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) were trending upward as of June. In July there was a down turn in some areas in part due to the Delta variant. We do not have the final figures for July because the monthly business report (MBR) is not due until the end of this month. Federal prisons are essentially closed as visitors are not allowed to use the vending machines and staff are only allowed to use them in some locations to a limited degree. Some food service locations are not open and others are still seeing limited sales as staff has not fully returned to the buildings. 

Bill suggested that committee members and mentors remind vendors to do their research when applying for a facility. Applicants should be talking to the previous vendor, district representative and the regional business consultant. Lack of knowledge can impact their ability to be awarded a facility. Recently applicants have gone into an interview without a plan or much knowledge of the location.

Prices for goods and labor have gone up and vendors should increase their prices when appropriate. Communications with customers is key to maintaining a good relationship. Bill suggested posting signs in advance to advise them of price increases.

The permit that the BEP has with federal locations is considered a contract and contractors and their employees are required to follow federal directives. Federal and GSA locations are implementing Covid-19 protocols that require contractors to provide an attestation that they have been vaccinated or proof of a negative test within three days of entering the location. Bill has reached out to our attorneys and upper management and there is not much that the BEP can do about the requirement. Federal locations may not allow admittance to the location if the vendor does not comply with the directive. Federal locations can include GSA and VA locations, military bases and post offices and each location may deal with the directive differently. TJ McCormick was told that a home test was not acceptable and that he would have to go to an official testing site. Phil Hubbard advised the group that the protocol for NASA is so cumbersome for anyone not vaccinated that it would be next to impossible for the regular employees to go into work. He also confirmed that NASA has slowed down the processing of getting staff back into the buildings. Joel Rose asked about the procedure for repairman and delivery men. BEP staff has been researching this and has no information at this time. Bill suggested reaching out to suppliers to see if they have heard anything or have been given any instructions. Jim Warth has spoken to Nicky Gacos who confirmed that it will be next to impossible to enter a federal location without a vaccination.

Bill Findley told the group about a webinar that the BEP staff viewed on Thursday, August 26, 2021. The subject was the memo of understanding between RSA and AbilityOne. A number of military bases were not available as an opportunity for the BEP because their food service was on a procurement list with AbilityOne. AbilityOne is tasked with providing employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Their scope covers a number of activities. The new memo of understanding states that the RSA should be offered the food service portion of the contract. When a contract is up for renewal AbilityOne is supposed to advise RSA that food service may be a Randolph-Sheppard opportunity. RSA would then advise the SLA of the opportunity so that they can make the determination whether it would be appropriate for a blind vendor. [Note: It has since been learned that the webinar may have been a little misleading. As written, the new MOU indicates that any opportunities afforded the SLA will have to be a new contract requirement that does not currently exist and is not on the Procurement List which protects AbilityOne’s rights. AbilityOne could voluntarily offer the food service related portion of an existing contract up for renewal that is on the Procurement List. This may really not be much help to SLAs.]
Mark Meyer, Region 6 Business Consultant is no longer with BEP. In addition to his BEP duties, Mark is the head of a non-profit that helped to feed the homeless. The non-profit recently received a two million dollar grant and Mark left to focus on managing the non-profit. We will re-advertise the position. We are also seeking candidates to fill the vacant positions at the rehab center. We have requested an increase in salaries for all three positions to assist in getting qualified candidates for the jobs.

The Biennial was rescheduled to November 19-20, 2021 after a survey of all operators showed that more than fifty percent felt that it should be cancelled or postponed. The Florida Restaurant Show and the Mini Blast scheduled for September have also been cancelled. A contract for the new date has been signed and reservation information is ready to be sent out to all vendors. Since the Committee will not have had a full meeting since June it has been suggested that a meeting be scheduled in December after the Biennial. There was a suggestion that the meeting should be delayed until January 2022. Kurt Ponchak expressed concern about the changes. He felt that the Committee should have had an opportunity to vote as a group on the change in plans. Nine of the twelve committee members had indicated that the Biennial should be postponed on the survey. Kurt was also is concerned about the increase in positive Covid tests and suggested picking a date in mid-October to make a final determination about the seminar. Phil Hubbard advised the group that Disney World will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in October and that the event might impact the positivity rate. He suggested looking at an alternate location. Both Mike Renaud and Randall Crosby are concerned that the selected date in November is too close to the Thanksgiving holiday. Bill Findley advised the group that the election of the Chairman and Vice Chairman should be held prior to the end of 2021. Kurt Ponchak made a motion to delay further discussion on the Biennial for two weeks to give the district representatives time to discuss it with the vendors in their area. Mike Renaud seconded the motion. Jim Warth suggested a meeting of all committee members on Friday, September 10 at 9:00am. Passed without objection by all members present.

Budget Report – Bill Findley/Kurt Ponchak

Kurt Ponchak said that the facility type is determining whether sales are increasing or decreasing. Overall sales are up as compared to 2020. The program has enough money but still needs to be cautious with expenditures. Bill Findley reported that set aside has increased over the last three months. Set aside is trending up and $40,000 was paid in July. There is $113,539 in the Bank of America account and the state treasury has over $50,000 for spending. The $200,000 for the air conditioning at the Rhode building has been certified forward.

Approved Business Expenses – Alan Risk/John Ahler

In August 2020 BEP started the process of making changes to the monthly business report (MBR) that would allow operators to itemize their approved business expenses. This is finally in place and operators will be able to start itemizing their expenses with the September report filed in October. The expenses are broken down into ten categories per the policy. This will allow the BEP to track commissions and other costs that the operator is contracted to pay a facility. In addition it will allow the program to make sure that the expenses are on the approved list. Kurt Ponchak asked if an operator would need to put a zero in the field if they were not claiming an expense and he was advised that he could just leave the field blank and it would calculate accordingly. John Ahler advised the group that there has been confusion on whether certain expenses are approved. Vendors are required to pay for internet for point of sale (POS) and micro market kiosks as well as for the smart locks. In addition there are kiosk fees and a monthly device fee for card readers. None of these expenses are currently on the approved list.

Sead Bekric made a motion to add internet fees for POS, micro market kiosks and smart locks along with kiosk fees and card reader device fee as an approved business expense on the MBR. Seconded by Mike Renaud. The Division has no objection to adding these costs to the list of approved expenses. Mike Renaud asked about the costs incurred for boosters for card readers. The group also discussed the impact to set aside and it was agreed that it would not be a major impact. This addition could help operators with large routes. The cost of kiosk is approximately $150 per kiosk per month but the program only has about seven micro markets at this time. Some vendors have assumed that they were approved expenses and have already been claiming them on their MBR. There was a voice vote and ten committee members voted yes. Phil Hubbard from District 6 voted no and District 10 was not represented. The motion passed.

NAMA Show Report – Brian Ashworth/Jay Payne

Brian and Jay attended the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) show in New Orleans August 18-20, 2021. Jay reported that the Florida program is ahead of other programs in regard to technology. Some of the new equipment displayed included a counter top coffee machine with an all metal brewer. The new model of the Fastcorp machine is using a metal arm and has the mechanism in the door for easy access. New forms of payment were discussed including a credit card that is touchless and the future use of crypto currency in vending machines.

Type II Updates – Maureen Fink

There are twenty-five facilities on Type IIs. The rest areas on I-10 at Crestview and Ponce De Leon and the vending route in Palm Beach County are planned for the next selection cycle. A number of Type IIs are still not viable and we will continue to monitor their sales and post them as opportunities when appropriate.

New Projects – Greg Coon

In the 2020-21 fiscal year 109 machines were installed including thirty-seven snack machines, sixty-four drink machines, one food machine, three coffee machines and four washer/dryers. One stand-alone micro market was planned but has not been installed. Thirty-three surveys were completed. In 2019-20 seventy-three surveys were completed and ninety machines and one micro market was installed. In the first two months of 2021-22, three surveys have been completed and fifteen machines have been installed at six locations. Agreements for multiple state parks, DCF in Palm Bay, USPS in Tampa and CDC of Tampa were submitted at the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year. In the 2021-22 fiscal year agreements have been submitted for Lake Baldwin State Veteran’s Nursing Home in Orlando, FDOT Burns Building and FDOT Blairstone in Tallahassee and Naval Support Activity in Panama City. We are still waiting for permits for the VA in Ocala and Zephyrhills. Last week we received nine GSA notices. Three were existing locations, one was declined and five new locations were accepted. We have approximately fifteen previous GSA notifications that have an expected start date within the next twelve months.  

Business Analyst Report – John Ahler

Reimbursements are down about 50% for the 2020-21 fiscal year as compared to the previous year. Spending is in line with the reduced set aside. Sales for the 2018-19 fiscal year were at $22.6 million; sales for 2019-20 were at $19.7 million and sales for 2020-21 were at $15.5 million. Operating costs have not changed as most are fixed costs. Forty-seven monitorings were done during the 2020-21 fiscal year. Thirty of the monitorings were virtual. John has recently returned to doing monitorings in person. He coached five new vendors: Justin Davis, Natasha Ginarte, Stefan Mitchell, Ryan Akeley and Paulette Williams.

A staff training with Cantaloupe is planned in September and we hope to come up with some simple instructions to help both vendors and consultants. The card readers are an asset and a tool for the vendors and the technology is moving forward with management systems and updated card readers. Kurt Ponchak asked about the staff survey for the RSA report. That will be sent out soon to all vendors.

Sead Bekric asked about the app that Colton Knight was testing for Cantaloupe. Colton reported that the app is not very accessible. He has advised Cantaloupe but has not had any indication that they are working to improve it. Sead suggested putting together a work group to work with Cantaloupe on improving the app. Colton Knight, Mike Renaud and Sead Bekric along with John Ahler volunteered to be in the group.

Compliance Officer Report – Alan Risk

All active vendors met the CEU requirement for the 2019-2021 reporting period. One vendor, who is on a medical leave of absence did not meet the CEU requirement and is being issued a notice of noncompliance allowing an additional fifteen days to meet the requirement.  Failure to do so would result in suspension of that vendor’s license.

Two requests for grievance hearings were filed since the last committee meeting. One request was withdrawn by the claimant and the other grievance resulted in favor of the claimant. For the 2021 calendar year, a total of five requests for grievance hearings have been filed. Two hearings resulted in favor of the Division, one hearing resulted in favor of the claimant and two requests were withdrawn by the claimant prior to their hearing.

Wayne Mercer and Monica Vasquez have been licensed since the last meeting. A total of five new vendors have been licensed in 2021. Two of the five have already been awarded facilities.

Six business opportunities were advertised on the May 2021 selection cycle. Shannon Shelton was awarded the Jackson County rest areas, Marylynn Giles-Robinson was awarded the Suwanee County rest area, Paulette Williams was awarded the Orange County Courthouse and David Alvarez was ultimately awarded the Lee/Collier County vending route after David Wermuth declined the opportunity. The Broward County Government Center snack bar and the Kennedy Space Center snack bar were not awarded.

Grievance Panel Election – Alan Risk

Alan Risk read the following to the group, “The Committee shall appoint licensees or others as deemed appropriate to serve on the program’s grievance board. Such appointment requires a two-thirds majority of the Committee”. Alan opened the floor for nominations.

Kurt Ponchak nominated Alton Palmore. Alton confirmed that he was willing to serve. Mitzi Bowen suggested including all the alternates as nominees for the opening. Alan explained that the position of alternate did not automatically guarantee a spot on the panel, but that an alternate can be nominated for an open position. Mitzi Bowen nominated David Stevens. David confirmed that he was willing to serve. Kurt Ponchak made a motion to close the nominations. Terri Lindstrom advised the committee members that being a member of the grievance panel is a very important job and that committee members should be sure that they vote for a vendor who knows the rules and is willing to review all documentation. Both of the candidates were allowed to speak to the panel. It was decided not to open the floor for questions as one of the candidates was in transit and not in a location conducive to answering questions.

Alton Palmore told the Committee that he has been a vendor for eight years. He said that he has a level head and will review all documentation. He is non-bias and is willing to help and to listen to all sides of the question. David Stevens has been a vendor for fifteen years and has operated both food service and vending. His twelve years with Coleman prison has given him insight into how to manage a staff. He has experience with working and talking to people. He believes that vendors need to make sure that other vendors are doing a good job. Each committee member voted. Per the Sunshine Law no member was allowed to abstain. Terri Lindstrom, Mike Renaud, Mitzi Bowen, Randall Crosby, David Stevens, Jose Quintanilla, Sead Bekric and Joel Rose voted for David Stevens. Jim Warth, Kurt Ponchak and Phil Hubbard voted for Alton Palmore. District 10 was not represented. Alan Risk confirmed that David Stevens won with a two-thirds majority with a vote of 8-3.

Joel Rose suggested nominating Orlando Ramirez for the vacant alternate position. Ultimately no vote was held as the candidate was not available to confirm that he was willing to serve. There are three alternates which is sufficient to cover at this time. Kurt Ponchak also objected because the vote for alternate was not listed on the agenda.

Regional/District Updates – All

Region 1 – Brian Ashworth/Janet Chernoff

Facility 545, Bob Martinez Center is being converted to a micro market and is on track to open in the fall. Vendor Anthony DaGraca will open the location until it can be determined whether this is a stand-alone facility or should be the start of a new route. We are moving forward with the equipment for Facility 632, micro market at FDOT. The contract for the facility is almost fully signed. Colton Knight will open the location. William Daniel signed into a Type II for Facilities 577 and 578, I-10 rest areas at Crestview and Ponce De Leon. Equipment inventory is scheduled for September 13-24, 2021. The federal prisons in Tallahassee and Marianna are still closed for vending and sales are down at Sunland. Facility 587, Blackwater River prison vending has resumed visitations with full vending rights. The welcome center at Facility 528, rest area on Highway 231 is scheduled to reopen in the fall. All rest areas are being cleaned per DOT request. Facility 371, FDLE cafeteria has reopened but sales have not rebounded. The micro market at Facility 470, Ft. Knox building has been closed as the building needed the space for more offices. Vending may be increased at this location and the micro market equipment will be used for Facility 545. New snack machines are planned for the Facilities 426, 427 and 577.

The food service at Facility 273, Collins Building has been closed until a new operator can be selected. Crystal Hughes will take over the vending effective September 2, 2021. Steve Docie has reported that two floors of the Larson building have returned to teleworking.

District 1 – Kurt Ponchak - Kurt has nothing to add.

District 2 – Mike Renaud - Mike also had nothing to add to the report.

Region 2 – Bernie Kaiserian

Region 2 will also start their equipment inventory on September 13, 2021 and he is also working on pressure washing the rest areas in his region. Vendors in Region 2 are still having issues getting products with Coca-Cola being the most problematic for some facilities. Vendor Marylynn Giles-Robinson has been ordering Coke for vendors in her area. The vendor does not have access to the VA nursing home on Facility 616, St. Augustine vending as the population is particularly vulnerable. There is a fourth National Guard location that is ready for vending that will be added to this route. Overall sales in Region 2 are doing well. In 2019 47% of the sales were credit card sales and that has increased to 59% of sales in 2021. Ninety-four percent of the vending machines in Region 2 have credit card readers which has contributed to the increase in sales. Facility 401, snack bar at the Jacksonville Service Center is still closed. Facility 145, snack bar at the Federal building is scheduled to be converted to a micro market in 2022. Facility 590, Jacksonville route and Facility 448, Baker County rest area will be on the September selection cycle.

District 3 – Mitzi Bowen

Everything is quiet in District 3. Mitzi congratulated Marylynn Giles-Robinson on being awarded a rest area on the May selection cycle. The rest areas at Wellborn are projected to be open in February 2022.

District 4 – Randall Crosby

Randall confirmed that vendors are having trouble getting product. He also stressed the importance of keeping high standards at your facility as it reflects on other operators and the program.

Region 3 – Jay Payne

Inventory for Region 3 is scheduled to start on October 11, 2021. Jay has been working on changing telemeters for the card readers. Visitors are still not allowed to use the vending machines at Coleman prison and only the staff has access. The Orange County Courthouse has asked for updated Covid-19 protocols which we have provided. The rest areas in Region 3 are also being cleaned. Kennedy Space Center is asking for proof of vaccination or negative test results. Sales are up at rest area facilities and are up twelve percent for the routes. All the food service locations in Region 3 are open and people are slowly coming back into the buildings and the facilities. Tomoka State Park has been installed and he is waiting for the previous providers’ washer/dryers to be removed from Gamble State Park.

District 5 – David Stevens

David has not heard anything about vaccine requirements for the prisons. He is trying to get permission to add credit card readers to vending machines when they reopen.

District 6 – Phil Hubbard - Phil had nothing to report.

Region 4 – Anthony Arduengo

Facility 380, I-75 rest area is almost completed and hopefully will reopen in September. Jim Gaudette will sign into Facility 272, Brooksville route on a Type II on September 1, 2021. Locations are being added and hopefully will make route viable enough to be posted as a Type I facility. David Alvarez will take over the newly combined Lee/Collier County route in November on a Type I. Card readers on vending machines are being upgraded to G10s. Sixty percent of sales are cashless and fifty percent of the cashless sales are contactless. Facility 31, Hillsborough County Courthouse snack bar reopened in June and sales are steadily increasing. The federal buildings in downtown Tampa still have a number of employees that are working virtually. Originally employees were expected to return to their offices in September. Facility 433, Skyway Bridge rest area will be on the September selection cycle. Business at this location has been impacted by the red tide.

District 7 – Jose Quintanilla

Jose confirmed that sales have increased at Facility 31. Ellie Seekins reported that a new company has taken over the maintenance at her rest area and that the new company has not taken care of the maintenance issues at the facility. Anthony Arduengo confirmed that the new company has been made aware of her concerns.

District 8 – Sead Bekric

Sead confirmed that vendors are still having trouble getting product and are concerned about being out of compliance. Vendors are interested in the new smart locks being used at some locations.

Region 5 – Rafaella Diershaw

Antonio Gonzalez was awarded Facility 352, Broward County Government Center as a Type II. The coffee kiosk is scheduled to be installed at FBI Miramar in early September. Facility 621, Ft. Pierce vending route operated by Mark Ogden continues to grow. Rafaella is making sure that all operators are aware of Covid-19 and wage requirements for federal locations.

District 9 – Joel Rose

Facilities on the interstate are doing better than other facilities. Vendors continue to have problems getting product. Joel was able to negotiate exclusive pricing for Coke and Pepsi products for vendors who are not exclusive. Vendors are stocking machines with whatever they have to keep the machines full. Joel agrees that prices need to be raised because of increased costs. He plans to put signs on his machines advising customers of the increase. Vendor Orlando Ramirez is doing well with his route and BSO facility and is glad that the Broward Government Center will be operated by another vendor. Orlando is the new District Rep for District 9. Joel will be the alternate.

Region 6 – Maureen Fink

Facility 348, cafeteria at the State Regional Service Center in Miami has been closed since March 2020. A new air conditioner has been installed and has passed inspection. They will look at options for reopening in light of concerns with the Delta variant. Facilities 512 and 530, prison vending are still closed. Facility 15, Dade County Courthouse snack bars were closed due to structural concerns with the building. The building has reopened and maintenance and security staff has returned. The rest of staff is reluctant to return and a new building is not scheduled to be completed before 2024. The facility’s inventory has been sold and the machines emptied. Credit card sales comprise 60.1% of the sales in Region 6 and 50% of those sales are contactless. Maureen plans to set up a conference call with rest area operators to get feedback on the smart locks.

Round Table Discussion – All

Sead Bekric asked Bill Findley if he had any feedback on the Committee and if there was anything that they could to improve the relationship between them and the agency. Bill said that he believes that the Division and Committee have worked well together. He cited the numerous meetings held by appropriations subcommittee concerning FRRP funds. The virtual meeting format is limiting and makes it harder to engage. He is looking forward to getting back to meeting in person.

Alan Risk confirmed that the elections of District Reps and Alternates were legitimate and that the new committee members should take office after the election of the Chairman and Vice Chairman. Kurt Ponchak suggested adding the subject to the agenda for the meeting on September 10, 2021.

Meeting was adjourned at 12:30pm.  


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