County Puts Off Vote On Coke Contract
Ron Hurtibise Staff Writer October 16, 1998; Page 05C
DELAND -- The Volusia County Council delayed voting on a five-year sponsorship contract with Coca-Cola after beach concessionaires complained they were left out of the loop on wholesale price negotiations.
The deal, in the works for a year, would provide the county up to $3.38 million over five years in exchange for Coke's exclusive advertising and distribution rights at county venues. Under terms of the proposed pact, beach concessionaires who sell soft drinks would be required to stock Coke products exclusively.
Doug Daniels, attorney for the 100-member Volusia County Concessionaires Association, said he was not given an opportunity to study the contract until Wednesday afternoon less than a day before the council's scheduled vote.
Concessionaires said they were concerned because the proposed deal would raise their wholesale prices 40 percent over what they currently spend for Coke and Pepsi products. The increases would raise busiest vendors' prices by $1,000 annually and average vendors by $200, said economic resources director Jamie Seaman.
Council members Bob Tuttle and Jim Ward noted that before the council voted in May to authorize negotiations with Coke, company officials vowed not to raise vendors' wholesale prices.
Seaman said at the time that concessionaires would be invited to participate in the negotiations with Coke.
Thursday, five concessionaires at the meeting with Daniels said they were told nothing about the price hikes.
The slight was another example of county staff failing to communicate with the concessionaires, Daniels said. He accused Seaman of dragging out the process despite two votes by the council supporting negotiations with the current vendors, whose latest contract ended Sept. 30.
Seaman did not respond to Daniels' comments. But County Manager Larry Arrington said county staff never intended to leave the concessionaires uncertain about their future.
The two sides differ over how much money the concessionaires should pay the county for the right to operate on the beach. Currently, the concessionaires pay 10 percent of gross revenues about $330,000 a year. The association last spring offered a flat fee of $400,000. Seaman said that was "half of what we think they ought to be paying."
Both sides agreed during the sum mer to hire a private company to oversee the concession operations and conduct marketing studies to help determine a contract fee.
Daniels said he recently called the company, Delaware North.
A representative told him that he couldn't talk to concessionaires without the county's permission.
"Apparently it wasn't OK because I didn't get a call back," Daniels said.
Daniels' lack of success in negotiating a new deal has left him on the verge of being fired by the association, he said. "I've failed and failed miserably," he said.
Before Daniels spoke Thursday, Arrington urged the council to approve the Coke deal despite concessionaires' complaints.
He softened his position after six council members sided with the concessionaires.
Arrington later pledged a renewed effort to work with the concessionaires on a new long-term pact and the Coke contract.
He said he directed Chief Operating Officer Ray Pennebaker to work directly with concessionaires' spokesman Greg Northrup "to make sure we don't have any further personality or communication problems."
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