BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A situation that arose at the June 3 Los Alamos Concert Series event at Ashley Pond Park with regard to a food vendor space for Sirphey, LLC has escalated after Los Alamos County Councilors during their June 14 meeting discussed the matter under an agenda item merely stating “County Manager’s Report”.
At County Manager Steven Lynne’s request, Deputy County Manager Anne Laurent made a lengthy statement about the investigation that was conducted into what happened June 3 that resulted in Sirphey, LLC being placed in a location where they did not have access to power for their tent.
Sirphey’s Cortni Nucklos wrote to local media about the donation of more than 100 meals Sirphey had to donate to St. Elizabeth’s Shelter in Santa Fe because they were unable to serve it hot for the June 3 concert crowd.(https://losalamosreporter.com/2022/06/05/sirphey-thanks-anna-llobet-megias-community-for-finding-a-home-for-150-200-portions-of-food. Nucklos subsequently filed Inspection of Public Records (IPRA) requests with the County in an effort to determine what had transpired that resulted in Sirphey not having access to power as well as what individual vendors were paying for their spaces for the concert series as she believed there were discrepancies with what was being charged to different vendors.
After Nucklos requested records from the County, a news release was sent to local media outlining the County’s procedures for concert vendors; https://losalamosreporter.com/2022/06/10/cou nty-issues-explanation-of-permitting-process-for-summer-concert-series-vendors/ Since then, Nucklos has requested records that were allegedly not produced in response to her initial request as well as other relevant records.
The Los Alamos Reporter has chosen to cover this situation in detail and to report on what has been said in person and in writing by various people because of the differences in what has been said.
There was no agenda item on the June 14 meeting indicating that the vendor issue was to be discussed. Laurent’s statement and comments by Community Services Manager Cory Styron were followed by questions from Councilor David Izraelevitz, and then Nucklos spoke under public comment at the end of the meeting. Sirphey, LLC was not notified in advance that the situation was to be discussed.
Laurent prefaced her comments by saying the County is taking very seriously what it is hearing being discussed in the community and has had internal conversations to follow up and gathered information to do their best to be helpful for everybody.
Laurent said the County has worked tirelessly over the years to provide an exceptionally friendly and fun Summer Concert Series – even online performances during COVID-19 – and that staff takes great pride in the quality and the success of these events.
“The Summer Concert Series is more than great musicians, but about all aspects of the event including activities, socializing and certainly the vendors. The Recreation team has great pride in the Concert Series success and continues to work hard to develop and build relationships with local and regional vendors and to provide a memorable and safe experience for all,” she said.
Laurent said that in an effort to “clear up misinformation about the vendor application process and location assignments that are being conveyed”, staff would like to offer additional information about the vendor permits.
“Vendor permits for the Summer Concert Series are issued and coordinated through the Community Services Department. Vending spots are assigned on a first come first serve basis per the permit application and that is available online if anyone wants to go look at the Community Services website and look at what that application looks like. Currently 21 vendors are signed up,” she said. “A specific vending location is not purchased or guaranteed for each vendor. Vendor spots within the parking lot can have power provided, but some will require running extension cords and covering them with an approved covering. There are some other additional limits within the application about voltage and not overloading the panels that are described in the application document.”
Laurent said food vendors are prioritized for the parking lot because information vendors can be located on the grass, and that’s what staff has done a better job of in the last couple of events.
“The first two we were still working out the kinks, which is pretty normal, but because of the number of food vendors we have moved a lot of those information vendors to the grassy area,” she said.
Laurent said Recreation staff has a process they go through each week to assign location based on the needs of the vendors present.
“We support their efforts to optimize the spaces and balance all that is required to create the successful concerts we enjoy. Due to all the inspections and coordination required, staff does need to get confirmation that vendors are attending by Wednesday morning prior to the Friday concert,” she said.
“In response to Sirphey’s letter to the media this past weekend, which detailed four concerns, indicated the County did not follow their process, we would like to clear the air and offer our perspective to Council and for the public,” Laurent said, continuing as follows:
- The assertion of disparate treatment by the County between small, local operations and bigger, outside operations by charging different rates to different vendors for spaces is not accurate. In reviewing the applications, and speaking with staff, it is accurate that vendors’ locations are referred to in the application as one 10’x10’ space, which is the standard tent size you see, or a trailer. Staff processes food truck applications as a trailer. It is the closest similar type unit; we call it one mobile unit that comes in and takes up some space.
Trailers and food trucks are equivalent to one 10’x10’ space regardless of size meaning that even though the fee is the same, they might actually physically take up more space than the 10’ by 10’ tent. The only anomaly is food vendor JPZ, who increased their presence at the concert after very successful first two concerts and they did come in and submitted a second application and payment on May 31for an additional space. Staff is currently working on the paperwork for even a third additional space for JPZ.
The vendor process does allow for changes in dates and the number of spaces that can be requested. Even though there’s an initial application, the vendors are more than welcome to come in and revise it, submit a new application and that’s absolutely okay by us.
- The second concern was that the County ignored other vendor communications. There was one error, when Yoga with Jacuzzi (sic). They were placed on the map issued on a week they didn’t sign up to vend, so it was just human error – mistakes happen – and we work hard to resolve them when we make them.
- The assertion that vendors that did not sign up get placed on the map only happened in two instances, one when there was a mistake made, as just referenced with Yoga with Jacuzzi (sic). The other is what was also discussed with JPZ. Those were the only inconsistencies that we found and we think that in review there were very reasonable explanations as to why those happened.
- Staff does accommodate vendor changes when foreseeable and feasible. What that means is that even though we come out and we come out with a plan, we work with the vendors who show up and when something comes up where they need a change, we work with vendors, so is true that we accommodate changes with vendors each week. The difference between how staff accommodated other vendors versus Sirphey for the June 3concert is specifically stemming from Sirphey’s decision that week not to commit in addition to their absence from the first two concerts, and it was leaving staff to prioritize working with and coordinating with the vendors that were and did commit to participate.
While power was available on June 3 for Sirphey, staff believes more could have been done to assist them with obtaining power when their vending location was changed, and since Sirphey has started vending the last two Fridays, they were moved back to their original spot assigned.
This year, Community Services received the largest number of food vendors that applied for the entire season and that’s exciting. As stated earlier, the County values our relationship with our vendors and senior staff welcomes conversations with Sirphey or any vendor, on how to improve and better manage these relationships.
Councilor David Izraelevitz said he looked at the vendor permit and that it says which date you want to have.
“If someone puts down ‘all’, but then as you mentioned some vendors, for mechanical reasons or whatever, are not there for several of these, is there any change in process in the prioritization that occurs because for whatever reason there is inconsistent attendance? “ he asked.
Laurent responded that it is a layered prioritization that staff goes through and that she might not have it right but that food vendors get priority on the areas on the parking lot, because that’s where the electrical hookups are, and vendors who signed up for the entire season get priority next. She said there is a weekly call by staff to confirm attendance because even though vendors sign up for the entire season, things come up.
“They are trying to accommodate other changes; maybe a vendor wanted to pay for an additional space if there’s room but it depends on whether it’s available or not, so that’s where that third layer of prioritization happens the week of the event. I can say with confidence we haven’t had any of the other vendors have any concerns with our Wednesdays deadline for the purposes of just trying to coordinate all the different needs and making it a good layout,” Laurent said
Izraelevitz asked if when staff meets with vendors Wednesday morning it is written or verbal. Laurent said it can be either.
“I don’t believe staff from what I see is being overly formal about it. And honestly there are a lot of times that we can’t get a hold of somebody that we give them the benefit of the doubt. We did for Sirphey the first two events. Now we’re going back the other way giving them the benefit of the doubt that they will be there because now they are actively participating,” Laurent said.
Chair Ryti asked if there was a much greater number of interested vendors than pre-pandemic. Laurent responded that it is her understanding is that there have been other successful years and this is a similarly successful year. She said the difference is there are more applications where vendors are signing up for the entire season.
Ryti said it sounds like there is sort of prioritization issue potentially because of the limited space.
“We found solutions thus far so that we’re not oversold and that’s the purpose of the non-electric-needing vendors having alternatives so my understanding is we’re very creative in how we make it work and try to accommodate everybody’s needs,” Laurent responded.
Ryti said he was curious about the 10’ X 10’ versus the trailer.
“Do other communities lump them together or do we know if somebody who has a small food operation if that’s the same as somebody with a trailer operation? I guess there are cases where they need multiple spots for trailers. Is that something we’ve looked at in terms of the pricing?” he asked.
Community Services Director Cory Styron said, “No, honestly this is a transition concern we have because of some internal staffing issues we have had this year. We did not go back and review the vendor application totally and compare it to the fee structure. That one we’ve got to do after the season here,” he said.
He said another thing is every community does it a little different. Some have a specific price for a food truck and they give you the link that can be actually be. Sometimes they do it by 10 X 10 structures. Honestly, this year is so successful that a problem has been created by people wanting to be a part of this. We have people who start with one spot and now they want to have three at this event because it’s been so successful. We have some great vendors that have really added to the atmosphere and definitely we’re looking at that document. It’s one of the things we have on our plate for this fall,” Styron said.
Ryti said he did get a little confused looking at some of the check boxes and options on the form because it doesn’t seem like it covers all of the different kinds of events that the County has.
“I hope that we can make the opportunity inclusive for everybody and if we need more facilities, we need to hear about that at Council so we can look at that,” he said. Ryti went on to ask if it would be beneficial in case there was some misunderstanding and a vendor wanted to provide food and needed electricity.
“Is there something that we need to have that the County has available. I know the form says you provide your own or you have to use the covers in particular and things like that. Is there something we can do to assist with that?
Styron said staff have been prepared specifically with the incident on June 3.
“They had cords and the covers ready for that event. So if we know in advance that there’s an issue we can accommodate small ones like that. We also have a situation where a couple of vendors want to move into a little bit different space that we have available and they want to bring their own generator so they’re going to bring their own generator. So we do have opportunities for people to help out and to try it as best but we do need to look at the infrastructure at that venue,” Stryon said.
When the opportunity came for Nucklos to respond to Laurent’s and Styron’s presentation under the final public comment segment of the meeting, she was given three minutes to speak.
“I think it’s inappropriate for the County to discuss such a major issue about the vendors without any notice, without the people here who want to be heard, including myself, if it was going to be discussed,” Nucklos. “I believe she (Laurent) referred to what I wrote as “misinformation” conveyed. I actually feel the same way and I will follow up with the County Council with explicit statements that were made, why they were false and the evidence that shows they were false.”
With regard to “the disparate treatment situation”; Nucklos said it was suggested that trailers and tents are different and that the actual way that that’s charged is different, but the direct quote from the contract that every single vendor signed says “trailer per space”.
“That is what’s signed and that is what’s paid for. The information I provided in the press regarding the rate is explicitly identified in the contract. Ms. Laurent did not address that is that JPZ is not a trailer, it’s tents, and they took up five spaces. As it stands, JPZ has been allowed to operate at one-fifth the rate of others. Also my IPRA request was submitted after June 3 and I asked for all applications on file but the County was not able to provide me with a single permit for JPZ for the June 3 concert. The only explanation I can think of is that it didn’t exist and they weren’t able to provide me with a single permit for JPZ #2, which is Zia Tacos, to operate at any concert,” Nucklos said.
On Laurent’s statement that “staff tries to accommodate people”, Nuklos pointed out that the County’s own Zero Waste tent was directly across from Sirphey in a place with easy access to electricity and could have been swapped out with Sirphey at any time, but it wasn’t.
“I would also point out that LAFD told Recreation that if they moved us on Friday (June 3) they would not have to submit a new map and they didn’t move us,” she said.
She added that the County had failed until that week to ever follow its own protocols which was heavily detailed in the piece she had sent to the press and that she would follow up and explain.
“The County did not reach out to us before the first concerts, and if they had followed their procedures, they would have known we wouldn’t be present. We would have been able to tell them exactly why,” Nucklos said. “There are a handful of other things. The suggestion that they couldn’t get a hold of us, it would have been nice if they had actually tried. (Laurent) also said there’s a weekly call but that hasn’t actually happened. Regarding the comments about cord covers, I would encourage the Council to look into communication between Lauren McDaniel and Brendan Tuning because Ms. McDaniel on Friday when she tried to get us cord covers and couldn’t.”
Under public comment the Los Alamos Reporter expressed concern that three important topics of interest to the community had been discussed under the County Manager’s Report and not placed on the agenda to give the public notice. She pointed out that Laurent’s presentation had taken 17 minutes of reading at a good clip and that it contained a huge amount of information that was not included in the agenda packet for the meeting. She said there’s no way for a member of the public to trace back what was being said using the Legistar search system. The Reporter said there was substantial discussion of the vendor issues with even the Community Services Director stepping up to the podium.
“I would respectfully ask if there is going to be an update on something like this, that it be included as an agenda, and at the very least, that the presentations be included in the agenda packet,” she said.
Nucklos’s open letter to Lynne and Council may be read here: https://losalamosreporter.com/2022/06/19/to-los-alamos-county-council-manager/
As of Wednesday evening, Nucklos had only received acknowledgement that the letter had been received. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Chair Randall Ryti acknowledged receipt of the correspondence and said clarifications and responses could be expected at a late time.