David Nelson put a hamburger patty on the grill and Michael Basso prepared an order of Mac & Cheese Bites while preparing lunch for a patron in the patio area of Great Hollow Lake on Friday. Basso, who owns on Route 34, recently entered into a contract to be the food vendor at Wolfe Park and the lake this summer.
Aside from the patio area of Great Hollow Lake, he will sell burgers, hot dogs, fries and other fare out of the concession building on the football field. The Town Council approved the contract last week.
Lake Zoar Drive-In has been preparing food at Great Hollow Lake for several weeks, but equipment still must be brought in to enable it to open on the other side of the park.
"We've been well received," Basso said. "The folks here are excited and we're excited to be here too."
Basso, who has added staff members, plans to be open seven days a week in both areas of the park.
One challenge will be serving food in the pool and basketball area. Basso plans to set up a system of runners who take people's orders and bring them their food from the football field at the top of the hill. This system would also be used during Parks & Recreation's on Sundays.
Diners will order from a more basic menu that includes egg sandwiches, burgers hot dogs and ice cream, but Basso also plans to introduce other items from the menu of his main business on Route 34 as specials.
Council Approves Contract
The Parks & Recreation Commission approved of Lake Zoar Drive-In as the vendor at Wolfe Park and Great Hollow Lake this summer and Town Attorney Jack Fracassini negotiated the contract. According to the agreement, Basso will pay the Parks & Recreation Department $2,500 plus two percent of the gross total sales after taxes.
Though it has been done this way for years, Fracassini believes the two percent charge on gross receipts is an added burden and has suggested a flat fee in the future.
Though the contract did not come before the Town Council until its meeting last Monday, it actually went into effect on May 15 and Basso was already operating at the park. Requirements also called for Basso to sign the agreement and provide proof of a certificate of insurance and licensing.
"The man is operating without a signed contract?" Town Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin asked.
Fracassini told her that Basso said the contract is signed and that the check has been paid. He also noted that these vendor contracts had not gone before the Town Council until this year.
First Selectman Steve Vavrek expressed his belief that the vendor contract was too small to come before the Town Council. "I'm agreeing with Mr. Buzi, we don't need to have Town Council approval of every contract right down to the toilet paper," he said of former First Selectman Tom Buzi.
Town Councilman Frank Lieto disagreed. "We're not buying reams of paper. This is a contract with a food vendor. There could be risk for the town. I don't care what's happened in the last 20 years, things should be done right."
Martin asked why the contract was not put out to bid and Vavrek said Martin's and other council members' questions could have been asked before Monday's meeting. Martin said she asked about it two weeks ago.
Lieto said, "Mr. Basso did come and make a presentation to the Parks & Recreation Commission and he was approved by the commission. To blame the commission is unfair. I think it's unfair to Mr. Basso to pull the rug out from under him."
Town Councilwoman Debra Dutches said she could support the contract so long as it's signed with a cover letter with assurances that the licenses and insurance certificate are in place.
The Town Council approved the contract by a vote of 7 to 1, with Martin the sole dissenter.
"This is not against the Parks & Recreation Commission or the town attorney," Martin said of her vote. "I think this should be put out to bid."