MADEIRA BEACH — The popular Snack Shack at Archibald Park will continue under its present operators.
The City Commission decided at its June 11 meeting to extend the concession agreement with United Park Services for two years and rejected an opportunity to look at the qualifications of at least one other vendor who was interested in taking over the Snack Shack operations.
City Manager Jonathan Evans had said a request for qualifications would let the commission look at and compare the credentials and experience levels of other interested concessionaires with United Park Services, which has run the Snack Shack for the past five years.
They could “show their expertise in running a place like this,” Evans said.
United Park Services has been on a month-to-month lease, resulting from its missing a deadline to renew the two-year extension. The company was about a week late with its renewal, Attorney Ralf Brookes said. Brookes also said one other vendor was currently interested in the Snack Shack concession and had talked of filing suit against the city if not allowed the opportunity to bid on a contract.
But Brookes added the city could defend any challenges if the commission decided to renew the two-year agreement with United Park Services.
Brookes said the current vendor would prefer a longer, five-year lease, but would be satisfied with the two-year extension called for in the current contract.
Vice Mayor Nancy Hodges said she was in favor of continuing the city’s current contract with United Park Services.
“They have been here a long time and have done a great job. I don’t understand why we don’t just give them a two-year agreement and move on,” Hodges said.
Commissioner Deby Weinstein said, “We do know what we’ve had the past five years and it has been excellent.”
But going out for bids with an RFQ “is not out of line, as we don’t want to get into a legal hassle,” she said.
United Park Services president Alan Kahana said his company had made a substantial investment in restoring and renovating the Snack Shack and wants to continue as concessionaire. He said a five-year lease is preferred, but continuing the two-year lease is acceptable.
Commissioner Doug Andrews said he wants to stay with United Park Services.
“I don’t like the idea of someone else coming in and getting it. We know what we’ve got here,” he said. “They do a great job.”
Resident Helen Price said no other firms have more qualifications than the current operators of the Snack Shack. City officials would just be making work for themselves if they seek RFQ.
Brookes said the commission should make the decision based on what is best for the city. “Don’t let (the threat of) lawsuits control what you do,” he said. “There are certainly good grounds to extend this agreement.”
A motion by Hodges to grant a two-year extension of United Park Services’ concession agreement passed 5-0.
Evans said he would have an agreement ready for the commission to approve at its next meeting in July.
City moves to bolster funding for capital projects
The commission decided, on the recommendation of Finance Director Walter Pierce, to halt the payment that is added each year to the city’s emergency reserves fund and put the money in the general fund instead. The amount is approximately $200,000 per year.
The emergency reserves are currently nearly $2.5 million, which both Pierce and the city manager said is more than adequate to meet any emergency, including a catastrophe in the community.
“We don’t need to put any more in the emergency fund. We have more than enough,” Pierce said.
The money is needed to help fund $15 million to $20 million in capital projects and the stormwater project on Crystal Island, Pierce said.
“We’ll mostly utilize that money for capital investments in the community, and if possible, not have to raise the millage rate,” he said. “That is the fiscally prudent thing to do.”
Pierce also said if a hurricane hits the area, another $5 million in unrestricted funds are available.
Andrews said he wanted to hold off “moving money around” until the upcoming budget discussions. Hodges said she agreed with that.
“I’m doing the budget now, and this is something that we really need,” Pierce replied.
Weinstein’s motion to halt the annual funding of the emergency reserves and put the money in the general fund where it can be used for current projects was approved 3-2. Mayor Maggi Black, Commissioners John Douthirt and Weinstein were in favor. Andrews and Hodges voted no.
The commission also agreed to Pierce’s proposal to direct revenue from last year’s 50-cent increase in the city’s hourly parking rate toward the projects that have recently been approved for stormwater and roadway improvements. Currently, the parking increase income is pledged toward paying off existing debt and infrastructure needs.
A motion to make that change passed 3-2, with Andrews and Hodges again voting against it.
Pierce said using the additional parking revenue as he is proposing provides “more flexibility” to meet new debt obligations arising from $15 million in capital projects that were recently approved.
Financial analyst for marina turned down
Pierce said a financial analyst is needed at the city marina to help implement the recommendations of an extensive forensic audit of the facility conducted last year.
The auditor made 25 recommendations, which Pierce said must be done.
“We can implement the procedures,” Pierce said, “but we need someone down there to help the employees and give them the training they need.”
The financial analyst’s salary would be $45,000, Pierce said.
Andrews said the marina needs a certified marina director, not a financial person.
“We need leadership down there,” Andrews said. “Why are we adding this position instead of finding someone to manage the marina?”
Hodges said the city needs a marina director and a public works director.
“We don’t need a financial analyst, not for the marina,” she said.
“Hire a marina director with financial experience,” Black said.
Only Weinstein favored hiring the financial analyst for the marina.
“We need a person with government experience, a person who understands government accounting,” she said.
Pierce said the position would pay for itself in a two-year period.
A motion by Weinstein to hire a financial analyst for the marina failed when no one seconded it.