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Lake Zoar Drive-In Caters to Wolfe Park Patrons

The Town Council approves a contract for the Route 34 eatery to be the food vendor for Wolfe Park and Great Hollow Lake.

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.

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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."

Geezer July 01, 2012 at 01:13 PM
have the health dept inspections been completed? what is the approximate amount of the 2% of gross sales? maybe the town could get more...
dolphinlover July 01, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Why does everything have to be a fight in this town? The guy did what he had to do leave him alone. No wonder small business does not do well in our town. I have never been to the Lake Zoar Drive-in but if it's good when I try it at the park maybe it encourages people to visit his main place of business. Give me a break. Stop complaining about every little thing . It seems unless, you have Big Bucks$$$ in this town they won't let you do anything to help a little business.
Lani July 01, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Did the contract "go out to bid" every other year? Geesh. I for one am excited about this. We love Lake Zoar Drive In!
Steve Kirsch July 01, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The article states: “Fracassini told her [council member Martin] that Basso said the contract is signed and that the check has been paid.” What the article fails to say is that neither Mr. Fracassini nor First Selectman Vavrek had seen the signed contract, the check, and the letter of insurance as of the time of the Town Council Meeting. How is it that when an item such as “Food Vendor – Wolfe Park (vote anticipated)” is listed on the agenda for the meeting and published in advance, that neither the Town Attorney or the First Selectman can come to the meeting with documents and answers to potential questions? There was an argument made during the discussions that this item should not need to come to the Council. Maybe it should and maybe it should not, but if it does not come to the Council, then who has the paperwork? How would anyone know if it was all completed and is in order?
jim laguardia July 01, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Just wondering if they will still run a pizza special for the character dinners??
Steve Kirsch July 01, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Lani & Dolphinlover, there was not a fight over this so much as there were questions with few answers. You can see from the vote that it passed by a large amount. This was not about Mr. Basso doing anything wrong.
Donna Gail July 02, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Did Vavrek really bring up Tom Buzi in this? Vavrek is the one who brought up the whole issue of contracts at a Town Council meeting right before he challenged him for the First Selectman seat. He read the definition of the word "contract" from the dictionary during public participation. That is really playing dirty. He didn't agree with Tom Buzi back then - Vavrek's the one who started all the trouble for Buzi over contracts. Convenient how he can turn it around now. I'm sorry but I'm sick of the way Vavrek name-drops all the time. And I agree with Lieto on this one - the matter of a food vendor is an important contract. Council has had all sorts of problems in the past re: a hot dog vendor at Wolfe Park, if I recall. I don't really understand how we got into the position of letting any vendor do business at the Lake without being approved. Council & Vavrek should be consistent in how they run these things. How are the businesses supposed to know what to expect or what is expected of them?
PlumbBob July 02, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Typical Monroe he said she said, who the heck knows what's going on or how to do it, go ahead it's ok no wait you can't do that nonsense. I genuinely feel sorry for Michael Basso from the Lake Zoar Drive In because he is caught in the middle of this. I am sure he is trying his best to do what is required to run a business (that I feel would be great addition for our community and park-goers) and our officials can't instruct him clearly on what needs to be done. Ridiculous as usual!

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