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Fri, Feb. 28

Mohave County chooses shorter vending contract; federal rules criticized

KINGMAN - The contract for operating vending machines in county buildings will go to blind vendors for the next five years, not until 2030, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors decided Monday.

The board voted 5-0 to approve an agreement with the Arizona Department of Economic Security's Business Enterprise Program for vending services in accordance with federal law. The item was continued from the May 4 and May 20 board meetings.

Supervisor Buster Johnson said he was a "little dismayed" that the board wanted to put out a request for proposal on vending services and received a letter just last week saying that would be illegal.

Johnson said he'd rather go with a five-year contract and leave it up to the next board, and his fellow supervisors agreed.

The term of the contract is important, Chairman Steve Moss said. The program does help the blind, but for the federal government to tell the county it has no choice in awarding the contract goes against the grain of local government, he said.

"I do think there are some issues of resistance. We have no choice. If there was a baseline to compare services and give the blind preference, we'd be okay. But being told we have no choice is just one more feather on the scale," Moss said.

Jason Sauer, manager of the Business Enterprise Program, said the county was not locked into 15 years and that a shorter term on the contract is possible. However, with the procurement process and the government, anything less than five years becomes "kind of cumbersome," he said.

The Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1937 gives priority to people with disabilities to operate vending machines on federal property, and the law was revised over the years to include cafeterias.

The Business Enterprise Program has 28 blind vendors in Arizona with 249 employees in the support system, Sauer told the board during his presentation.

The 2006 contract with Mohave County is for seven vending machines at one site and 31 machines at 13 other sites, he said.

Johnson asked who has the Mohave County contract, and was told the vendor was out of Phoenix. Sauer said the vendor works with locally based companies and comes here on a quarterly basis.

"If you do have people that are blind and interested in the program, I'd be happy to meet with them," Sauer said.

However, the vendor has to meet program criteria, go through six months of training and be willing to get up early and work late, he said.

"It (vending contract) can't be passed from person to person. You can't take it and give it back," Sauer added.

The current contractor has vending machines in Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City that are packaged together as a vending route, Sauer said.

"We really don't have absentee owners as part of the program. They want to work. They don't want to sit home and collect a paycheck," he said.

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