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No barista for Madera County Government Center

Supervisors sink Starbucks project

Reversing past votes, Madera County supervisors unanimously agreed this week to cancel its contract with Aramark Correctional Services allowing Aramark to build and operate a Starbucks coffee kiosk at the Government Center.

Killing the controversial project will cost the county about $150,000 for new lobby furniture, partial Starbucks kiosk fabrication, a plan to extend building utilities to the lobby, and project management.

Supervisor Robert Poythress, District 3, noted during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the board of supervisors that it did not seem as if Aramark had any “skin in the game.”

“Why does the county have to be liable at the end of the day for this $340,000 capital investment?” he asked. “I have another job. I’m a banker, and I finance people who are doing lease-hold improvements … And at the end of that day they hope to make a profit. Otherwise, if it doesn’t look like they’re going to make a profit, they exit. So it looks like with the arrangement we have with Aramark there’s absolutely no risk to Aramark ... because, if we don’t make money on this kiosk we pay the difference.”

Referring to a handout on the project, he said, “It says, most firms end up breaking even on the running of the cafes, which would indicate to me that the best they can do is break even.”

Madera resident Wallace “Wally” Nishimoto asked supervisors about the viability of a coffee shop in the lobby. “The business gears are turning and it’s still coming up bankrupt as a business investment,” he said.

“This is difficult for me here because we just made a decision to close our (Bridge) Store no more than six months ago,” he admitted at the start of his public comments. “We are looking at the economic conditions of Madera. We we are looking at whether to invest half a million to a million dollars back into our building and … (ask) what’s the return going to be and when are we going to get that back? … From the numbers that were tossed here, Aramark breaks even at five years ... Year 20, the county breaks even.”

Supervisor David Rogers, District 2, defended the “County Grind Coffee Kiosk” project before joining his colleagues in voting it down.

“I just want to say this was more for me about the employees,” said Rogers, who had long championed the project. “It’s not necessarily about operating a business that makes a huge profit. It’s about paying it off and the users pay for it. That’s my whole idea concept. So this has been distorted enough and distorted by people who don’t really understand what’s going on here.”

After voting to kill the project, Supervisor Tom Wheeler, District 5, apologized to Aramark district manager Peter Burt. “Sorry, Peter,” he said.

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