Quarterly Meeting of the State Committee of Vendors

Friday, October 1, 2021

Chairman James Warth called the meeting to order at 3:30pm. 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, Lilian Pemberton, District 10.

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, Janet Chernoff, Administrative Services Consultant, Jay Payne, Region 3 Business Consultant, Rafaella Diershaw, Region 5 Business Consultant, Mary Ellen Harding, Administrative Assistant.
Licensed Vendors: Debbie Malmberg, District 1 Alternate; Colton Knight, District 2 Alternate; Mark Turner, District 4 Alternate; TJ McCormick, District 7 Alternate; David Kaplan, District 9 Alternate; Alicia Villeda, District 10 Alternate, Kashif Ahmed, Orlando Ramirez.

Review of Repair Reimbursements Policy – Questions, Concerns and Current Issues

Bill Findley, Jim Warth

Alan Risk read the relevant sections from the Policies and Procedures Manual. This included line eleven of Section 5.0 Licensed Vendor Responsibilities, Section 5.4 Equipment, Maintenance and Repair and Section 5.5 Reimbursement Process.

Bill Findley opened by telling the group that it is important for all vendors to remember that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Vendors are independent business people within the scope of a state program that is federally funded. Staff salaries and travel are paid from funds outside of the two accounts that the program uses. Blind Services has 1.5 million in money and budget authority.

Monies in the set aside account come from vendor set aside, third party income and newspaper racks. This can be as much as $595,000 but if there is less we can only spend the lesser amount. The set aside account can be used for maintenance of equipment, contracted services and the purchase of replacement and new equipment. There is a limited amount of funds so the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) must use the funds wisely for the benefit of the program. This is done by maintaining existing equipment and creating new opportunities. The program has been relatively stagnant for the past year. Since the pandemic the program has permanently lost five numbered facilities. There has been some positive news and the BEP has installed 115 vending machines and has added military dining at Hurlburt Field as a new facility. Only two new vendors have been placed in their first Type I facility this year and one new vendor has signed into a Type II.

Going forward the BEP will be spending money on facilities. Two facilities in Tallahassee will be converted to micro markets and three more micro markets will be added. A couple of these were scheduled to be completed last year and were delayed due to the pandemic. The BEP needs to create new facilities to compensate for those that were lost. The program expects to spend $200 - $250 thousand for micro markets in Tallahassee. Another $46,000 is planned for equipment for the two rest areas in Wellborn. The program will also be replacing G8 and G9 card readers with G10s. Set aside for the 2020-21 fiscal year that ended in June was $360,000. The program cannot spend more than that amount and has not used money out of set aside account for the first three months of the current fiscal year. Post offices and rest areas have done well for the first three months of this fiscal year but the BEP still needs to watch the set aside funds as it’s unlikely that we will reach $595,000 in this year.

District Reps are looking out for the interests of the vendors in their districts and that’s what they should do. In meetings they share their concerns and interests with the entire group. Representatives are also contributing their time and creativity to the BEP and that is a big responsibility. It’s important that we all do what is best for the program. The BEP needs to make sure that expenditures are in the best interest of the program and one area that should be reviewed is reimbursements as it may be necessary to refine our procedures.

Item fourteen, number nine of the information on Reimbursement Requests indicates that an original invoice should have a description of repairs and item number ten indicates that the cost of repair should be stated for each piece of equipment repaired. There is no requirement requiring that parts or labor be listed separately. There is also no requirement to list a trip charge separately. Under vendor responsibilities it states that a licensed vendor shall agree to do the following: To accept responsibility for cost associated with normal business operations, including, but not limited to, cleaning supplies and services outside the scope of the Licensor responsibility, replacing light bulbs, restoration of function for jammed mechanisms and any financial loss due to vandalism or theft. The perimeters are very broad and are not that clear. 

Another concern is the repair of machines owned by Coke or Pepsi. Bill asked the group for input on their experience with Coca-Cola as there were problems prior to the pandemic. There was a short discussion about strategies for dealing with Coke. Jim Warth, Lilian Pemberton and Sead Bekric all agreed that immediate follow up along with knowing the repair technicians helped. Lilian told the group that incoming operators should be responsible for making sure that the equipment is transferred to them. Knowing the asset number of the machine needing repairs is also important. Jose Quintanilla makes sure to give the address of the machine in addition to the asset number. Jim Warth asked the group if it is ever appropriate for the program to pay for the repairs of a Coke or Pepsi machine. Phil Hubbard said that occasionally a vendor will have a location that a repairman from Coke or Pepsi cannot access. He shared an example from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) where repairmen from Coke and Pepsi are not willing to go through the badging process necessary to access secure areas at KSC. He suggested that it should be decided on a case to case basis and approved by the Regional Consultant or Operations Manager.

Sead Bekric proposed making a motion to add to the Licensed Vendors Responsibilities in Section 5.  Phil Hubbard felt that it was too early to make a motion. Jim Warth told the group that this is a preliminary discussion and that the issue should go to a work group for further review. Sead recommended that a vendor should obtain written permission from the Business Consultant for any repair of equipment not owned by the agency. He suggested that all repairmen who work on state equipment be insured, bonded and certified to work on the equipment. Jim confirmed that the policy does not specify any requirements for repairman. Sead said that the wording in 5.4 of the policy says “any equipment” and should be changed to specify only equipment owned by the state. Kurt Ponchak suggested that the state should contract with service providers and pay for repairs directly. This would result in a savings as the state does not have to pay sales tax. He feels that the vendors do not have the resources to find a repairman that is insured and further stated that there is not a licensure process for vending repairman. The current reimbursement process has been in place for some time without problem and he feels it is the agency’s responsibility to insure that reimbursements are correct. He also advised the group that a change in policy would require that the RSA review the BEP policy and procedures in its entirety. Randall Crosby agreed that the current process it good and that the majority of the vendors have followed it without a problem. He suggested more scrutiny at the state level. Alan Risk confirmed that the RSA reviews the entire policy but clarified that the changes are highlighted and that they would not necessarily examine policies that have already reviewed.

The group discussed concerns that a few vendors with excessive reimbursements could impact the program’s financial resources. Jim Warth explained that if a vendor follows the reimbursement procedures the state is obligated to pay. Tracking of repairs per machine was discussed and Alan Risk confirmed that the BEP does track repairs on individual pieces of equipment. Tracking the number reimbursements an operator submits was discussed. Bill Findley explained vendors are only required to advise the consultant of a repair that is $400 or more. The consultant may be unaware of repairs under that amount. Joel Rose advised the group that operators with routes would have more reimbursements. Kurt Ponchak suggested getting approval for any expenditure using state dollars. He recommended taking away the $400 requirement and moving the responsibility of paying for repairs to the consultant. Lilian Pemberton likes the idea of the state contracting for all repairs.

Jim Warth said that the issue should be addressed by the incoming Committee in December. Kurt Ponchak will schedule a meeting to further discuss the issue and get public comment. He will confer with Jim Warth on who should be part of the work group. Bill Findley expressed that the BEP wants to make sure that all equipment is working and that the program is being fiscally responsible.
The meeting adjourned at 4:50pm.


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