Council members reject bid for arena concession stand

The city is still without a concessionaire to run the snack bar at the newly renovated Watertown Municipal Arena.

By a 3-1 vote, City Council members on Monday night rejected the only qualified bidder to run the ice rink’s concession stand after deciding a $350-a-month bid from Maggie’s on the River was too low.

“I always hoped it would be more competitive, more robust,” said Mayor Joseph M. Butler before voting to reject Maggie’s bid. “You would be virtually giving it away.”

He was joined by council members Mark C. Walczyk and Cody J. Horbacz to, instead, recommend that the Parks and Recreation Department run the concession stand as it had done in past years.

Councilman Stephen A. Jennings, who wanted to award the bid to Maggie’s, cast the only vote against rejecting the bid. Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso was absent.

After the vote, City Manager Sharon A. Addison told council members that the city does not have the capability or the staff to run the snack bar, so individual organizations renting the arena will have to provide their own workers to operate it.

That means the operators for the North Country Home Show will have to man the concession stand at its April 15-17 event, she said. They will have to pay a $250 nightly fee to use the snack bar, according to Mayor Butler.

The concession stand project became a debacle since the Jan. 6 deadline arrived with no bids, leaving city officials to scramble. For weeks, council members also had considered spending more than $150,000 to install additional equipment that potential vendors had recommended.

Jason R. Price, Maggie’s general manager, was surprised that the Newell Street sports bar and restaurant didn’t get the job.

“It would have been a great opportunity for us and the city,” he said later, adding Maggie’s would be interested in submitting another bid if it comes up again.

After no one submitted a bid in January, council members decided to rebid it, only to declare last week that Famous Dick’s Hot Dog’s submission was incomplete and “nonresponsive.”

Famous Dick’s owner Kerry Johnson’s $400-a-month bid did not include required menu pricing or his experience.

Mr. Johnson, who attended Monday night’s meeting, said he was dumbfounded by the city’s reason to disqualify him since the Parks Department has called upon him for his concession services in the past.

“I think the city missed the boat,” Mr. Johnson said.

Under his bid, Mr. Johnson would have paid the city an operating rate of $6,800 over the 17-month length of the contract, while Maggie’s would have paid $5,950 over that time.

As part of the bid, Maggie’s submitted a menu that included hot dogs, local sausage, pizza, a soup of the day, chicken tenders, paninis and assorted non-alcoholic drinks and candy.

Famous Dick’s wanted to sell hot dogs and hamburgers, pizza, assorted chips, chili, nachos and a variety of non-alcoholic drinks and candy.

The subject of the $10.6 million arena, which may open later this week, dominated Monday night’s council meeting. In addition to the snack bar, council members also asked a series of questions about some cracks and other imperfections recently found in the rink’s concrete floor.

Former Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith, who has been involved with youth hockey, said the city should have “rejected” the floor and made the general contractor redo it, saying he’s worried that worsening problems may appear in the future.

He said it’s like getting a guarantee from a contractor for roof work after a problem occurs several years later and the installer and the manufacturer both blame each other.

“Their guarantee is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” he said.

City Engineer Justin L. Wood acknowledged there may be potential issues regarding “some imperfections” to the concrete floor under the ice rink but doesn’t think they are anything out of the ordinary. He noted that wire mesh also is showing at the concrete floor’s surface in some spots.

After being asked about it, Mr. Wood assured council members that the engineering staff will examine the concrete floor once the ice is removed after the public skating season concludes on April 7 to examine the floor and determine what needs to be done to fix it. It may be just patching up those areas, he said.

By Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times