In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s strike on Sarasota County in September 2017, county leaders were criticized about the county’s incurring a $130,000 bill to feed personnel at the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
With no contract in place at the time for such services, and the subcontractors of the previous vendor having been deployed to Texas to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, county staff has explained, the decision was made to work with Mattison’s of Sarasota to handle meals for up to 500 people a day at the EOC.
Following recommendations in the county’s After Action Report/Improvement Plan regarding Hurricane Irma, which was completed in March 2018, new procedures have been put into place to try to prevent a recurrence of the September 2017 situation.
As part of its Jan. 15 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the County Commission voted unanimously to award a bid for emergency feeding services to the Sarasota division of Metz Culinary Management. The company vice president who leads that division is Jack Brill of Longboat Key, who also recently was named acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota.
No commissioner offered a comment on the contract on Jan. 15.
“There is no expenditure amount specified for spending” under the terms provided in the contract with Metz, the document says. Metz “shall perform no work,” the contract adds, “until receipt of a purchase order from the County.” Even then, the contract notes that “no minimum amount of work is guaranteed …”
The contract with Metz, which is based in Dallas, Penn., may be renewed for two additional one-year periods, according to a Jan. 15 staff memo.
In April 2013, Brill was named vice president of business development for Metz, to handle the company’s Southern accounts, a Metz news release said. “His primary focus will be the state of Florida, home to Metz Culinary Management’s new Sarasota-based Southern Division Corporate Office,” the release pointed out.
Metz at that time had more than 160 food service and environmental service accounts in 14 states, the release noted.
“Brill has more than 25 years of progressive experience in the retail and foodservice industry,” the release said. “He has worked with multinational food corporations, independently owned family-run operations and military programs in addition to owning and operating two foodservice companies. Past responsibilities also include national sales management, sales force training and distributor program selling,” the 2013 release pointed out.
“‘I’m thrilled to join the Metz Culinary Management team and feel that we have services that are uniquely qualified for the South,’” Brill said in the 2013 news release.
“Brill resides in Longboat Key” with his wife, Antoinette, the release noted, adding that the couple has two children.
On Jan. 29, the County Commission reappointed one of Brill’s children, Victoria, to another three-year term on the county’s Public Facilities Financing Advisory Board.
Jack Brill’s position as acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota followed the election of former Chair Joe Gruters of Sarasota to the Florida Senate, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Gruters is preparing for the start of his first session of the Florida Legislature, which will begin on March 5. He already has been at work on a variety of bills he has filed.
Brill had been vice chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota for the past three years. He also is a former chair of the Sarasota Republican Club, the Herald-Tribune noted.
The need for a new contract
In September 2017, with the potential that Irma would hit Sarasota County as a Category 4 hurricane, inflicting severe damage, county staff executed its contract with Mattison’s of Sarasota. The meal services at the EOC commenced on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 and ended at noon on Sept. 12, 2017, according to the county’s After Action Report.
And even with the $130,000 expense, the report said, the feeding plan at the EOC “provided adequate nutrition during meal times that offered relief and an opportunity for staff to decompress before returning to work.”
The report added “that the mealtimes were a bright spot in the difficult days …”
A Jan. 15 memo to the County Commission from Rich Collins, director of the county’s Emergency Services Department, explained how the situation with the Mattison’s contract evolved.
Since 2007, Sarasota County had had unfunded contracts with vendors to provide disaster feeding services, which included fee schedules if services were requested, Collins wrote. “As no funding was required, the contracts did not require approval of the [County Commission].”
Then, in 2014, Collins continued, “it was identified that the potential cost for feeding during disasters could exceed $100,000; therefore, contracts to provide [those services] are brought to the Board for approval.”
On July 7, 2015, the memo pointed out, the commission approved a contract with Gol-Let Enterprises Inc., which did business as Café L’Europe on St. Armands Key. While Gol-Let was designated the primary contractor for disaster event catering, Collins added in the memo, the County Commission also approved a contract with A Joy Wallace Catering of Miami as the backup vendor.
Slightly more than a year later — on Aug. 23, 2016 — the commission again awarded the contract to Gol-Let Enterprises.
Then, the memo explained, in January 2017, Gol-Let Enterprises notified county staff not only of a change in its representative for the contract, but also of “the loss of key personnel that staff believed was necessary to fulfill the terms of the contract. As a result,” Collins continued, “that contract was cancelled in June of 2017 and there was not a disaster feeding contract in place when Hurricane Irma impacted Sarasota in September of 2017.”
Because disaster feeding services “were needed immediately,” the memo added, “and the unknown impact that Hurricane Irma would deliver required an emergency contract that included feeding at the EOS as well as field operations, [Mattison’s] agreed to assist and negotiated with Procurement staff for the provision of the required services for a worst-case scenario.”
Those services “were consistent with the pricing in the cancelled contract,” the memo pointed out.
Irma’s last-minute change of course made it unnecessary for Mattison’s to provide “sustained disaster feeding,” Collins noted.
After the county ended up with the $130,000 bill for Mattison’s services, Collins wrote, staff chose to pursue a more cost-effective approach. It would pursue separate feeding services contracts: one covering the meals at the EOC — which likely would be needed more often, the memo said; and a second, more expensive contract that would cover feeding of personnel at “disaster base recovery camps and field operations.” Collins noted that the latter scenarios are foreseen to be far less frequent.
The Metz contract says the company would provide equipment and labor to perform the food preparation, delivery and serving of the meals, and transportation for the delivery, as needed. Four “nutritional and well-balanced meals per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnights)” would be covered, Collins pointed out.
Separate contracts will come to the County Commission later for the field services and base camp operations, he added.
Few bids for a new contract
According to a Procurement Department document provided to the County Commission in its Jan. 15 agenda packet, three companies submitted bids for the new EOC catering services contract, which was advertised on April 20, 2018. Along with Metz, they were Mattison’s and A Joy Wallace Catering Production in Miami. However, a subsequent Procurement Department document explained that Wallace Catering was not found to be eligible for the award of the bid, as its proposal was “for base camp services and not for the Emergency Operations Catering Services,” as explained in the county’s Request for Proposals.
On Jan. 15, the County Commission also unanimously approved a contract with Mattison’s as the back-up, or secondary, contractor. A June 7, 2018 memo from Emergency Management Division staff to Kimberly Radtke, then the acting county procurement official, explained, “In the event that our selected Primary Contractor has any barriers in performing to the scope of a given scenario, whether it be due to size, complexity, storm damage, staffing shortage, etc., the Secondary Contractor will provide the necessary support to ensure feeding services are provided as required.”
The memo added, “Sarasota County will greatly benefit from having two vendors contractually obligated to the County if we are impacted by a disaster.”
Two of the three members of the Evaluation Committee ranked Metz first, for award of the primary contract. Both were business professionals with the county — one, with EMS Fire Operations; the other, with the Health and Human Services Department.
The person who ranked Mattison’s first was Anne Miller, a division chief with the county’s Emergency Management team, Procurement Department documents show.