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Editor's Corner: Coffee shop idea grinds to a halt

The Madera County Board of Supervisors did the right thing in killing the project that would have seen a Starbucks or Starbucks-like coffee kiosk in the lobby of the County Administration Building.

Aramark, the big food-service company, wanted to plant the coffee kiosk in the lobby in the approximate area of where the former public information desk used to be, but the agreement held Aramark harmless if the facility lost money or had to be shut down for just about any reason.

The county even now will have to pay some $150,000 for changing its mind on the project. And that’s before a single latte has been steamed.

If the supervisors believe the County Government Center needs a food service facility, it should advertise for bids from qualified local food-service operators used to running small coffee shops. Some space should be identified in the building where such a facility could be installed, and then once the bid is accepted, the operator should be allowed to put in a small eatery at his or her own expense, and pay rent to the county.

The county should have no other responsibility than to cash the rent checks. And hopefully county employees would patronize the coffee shop enough to make sure the owner made some money. It may be that once the coffee shop in the Madera Valley Inn reopens, the need for a coffee shop in the government center will be lessened. That restaurant, under a previous owner, was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and took care of hotel guests as well as county and city employees. People used to say more government business was transacted in that eatery than in the chambers and offices of the two governments.

Government business is still transacted in eateries, which always has been the case. But a recent Grand Jury report would indicate that county officials, armed with county credit cards, are treating one another to high-end meals — and not at Taco Time. The purpose of these meals is allegedly to build morale and induce a team spirit, but a little of that can go a long way.

Business lunches always have been part of business and government, but businesses are usually private organizations, while government operations are public, and the public doesn’t always agree that high-end meals are appropriate.

Officials should think about that before they place their orders.

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