Local merchants are up in arms over a proposed food contract for the new Transportation Cabinet building downtown, which, some say, they'd like to see rebid and marketed locally.
Complaints are targeted at a proposal that would allow an out-of-state vendor to run the 9,000-square-foot, $2.4 million dining facilities at the building which is nearing completion. The proposal being negotiated would allow the vendor to run the food service with a minimal - if any - investment. In fact, state auditors say the vendor will have free rent, utilities and equipment, and the average meal will cost less than $4.
Mary Ellis, executive director of the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce, said the deal gives Transportation's food service vendor an unfair advantage.
"It's not as if there's an equal playing field with the state paying for facilities, equipment and utilities," said Ellis. "Just think of all the things our downtown businesses have gone through with the construction of that building, then only to get slapped in the face... I don't think subsidizing a fancy restaurant is something the state should be involved in."
The cafeteria will include a deli, soup and salad bar, Italian restaurant and coffee counter where Starbucks coffee, among other items, will be sold, according a food service representative.
State Auditor Ed Hatchett raised concerns about the pending contract Monday. Auditors criticized parts of the agreement that would provide reimbursement of up to $1.13 million in equipment and allow the vendor to operate free of rent and utilities and with no requirement for profit-sharing with the state.
For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.