Thanks to a County Commission vote this month, the owners of the concession at Siesta Public Beach will be able to implement what county staff has described as a “market concept with movable kiosks.”
The kiosks were a response to a decision by the county’s Building Department staff that the gift shop that had been in the concession area was not allowed by county code and would have to be removed. That decision, Parks and Recreation Department staff wrote in a Nov. 8 memo to the County Commission, “resulted in a hardship to the new concessionaire.”
“Everybody wanted to have him up and operating by season,” Patty Gergen, a Parks and Recreation Department manager, said, referring to Warren LaBonte, one of the partners in the concession. “It’s going to be like a little market there,” Gergen said of the kiosk concept. “I think it’s going to be kind of cool.”
Neither LaBonte nor his partner, Brian Palmer, could be reached for comment, but Gergen said LaBonte was in the process of purchasing the kiosks. She was unsure when the structures would be in place.
According to the Nov. 8 memo to the County Commission from Carolyn Brown, general manager of the Parks and Recreation Department, and Kristin Steffen, a business professional in that department, staff recommended, and the concessionaire accepted, the proposed amendment to the contract with the county, which would allow the installation of the kiosks and an extension of the contract agreement for five months, to Aug. 31, 2016.
Additionally, the agreement gave LaBonte and Palmer’s firm, Socially Responsible Real Estate Initiative Inc., up to $50,000 in credit that could be applied against the monthly base fee it pays the county, to cover the cost and installation of the kiosks. The agreement also lowered the firm’s monthly fee for the period of January 2012 through March 2016, saving the concessionaire $165,000. The memo says the adjustment was to cover the concessionaire’s loss of retail business while the contract change negotiations were under way, as well the cost of implementing the market concept.
Effective in January, the concessionaire will be paying the county $30,864.67 per month. Nonetheless, the memo pointed out, the county still is expected to receive at least $170,000 a year more in annual payments from Socially Responsible Real Estate Initiative than it received from the previous concessionaire.
The Nov. 8 memo also noted background on LaBonte and Palmer’s enterprise. In November 2008, the memo states the county advertised a request for proposals for concession services at the beach. That RFP was canceled in February 2009. A second RFP was advertised Aug. 18, 2009.
After review of the nine proposals the county received, the County Commission awarded the concession Jan. 22, 2010, to Sunrise Sunset Concessions, doing business as Blue Wave Concessions, which county staff had ranked first among the responses it had received. However, Palmer, as agent for Socially Responsible Real Estate Initiative, protested that award. The County Commission later reversed itself, awarding the concession to Socially Responsible Real Estate Initiative.
In March, prior to the execution of the agreement, the memo says, the county communicated to Palmer that the structure the previous concessionaire had used as a gift shop no longer could be allowed on the site. Therefore, the county and Palmer’s firm agreed to modify their draft contract to allow the installation of two portable units in approximately the same location as the gift shop area.
The County Commission approved the amended concession agreement March 29. Subsequently, the memo says, Socially Responsible Real Estate Initiative presented a variety of portable units to county staff for consideration. Believing staff had approved the structures, the memo adds, the concessionaire started to install a retail structure “which (it) maintains was essentially the same as the portable units presented to staff.”
County staff disputed the assertion that the units were the same as those staff had seen; it gave the concessionaire notice in writing May 11 that the partially installed retail structure had not been approved and would have to be removed.