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News that one of Clinton’s favorite summer residents won’t be returning has left a number of Clinton residents—and visitors—upset. For 10 years, a sandwich from Sal D’s has been a summer staple for visitors to the town dock concession stand on Riverside Drive, but the business chose not to participate in a town bid process that could have returned the shoreline staple for an 11th season.
In early April, a post on the All Things Clinton Facebook page announcing that Sal D’s would not return ignited a firestorm of comments. Most of the responders lavished praise on the food and on the Voss family that ran the stand, while expressing anger at town leaders for allegedly pushing the Voss family out.
Bob Voss declined to speak for this article, but did add a comment on the Facebook post that stated: “To my devoted customers I consider friends: We have had a great 10 year run at Sal D’s down at the town marina preparing and serving you your favorite foods. It’s with great difficulty that I announce I am no longer able continue this year and wanted to let you know I’m sorry. I feel I have let you down, and I struggle with that. Due to the circumstances that were presented to me, I was unable to make another year work.
“I can not thank all of you enough for all the support you have shown my family, crew, and me. I will miss you all!” the post concluded.
First Selectman Christine Goupil explained the town’s side of the issue to the Harbor News.
“The challenge with the current three-year contract is the expiration date of May 29. Should there be a new vendor, it leaves little time before opening to get health district permits and set up before opening season,” she said. “An inquiry was made of the current lease holder, who pays $200 during operating months, whether they were willing to continue through this summer so the town could bid the concession in the fall.”
The rent the town receives appears to be part of the reason for the bid process. Goupil said informal Board of Selectmen discussions proposed $500 to $1,000 a month as a more appropriate income to offset the maintenance costs the town incurs from the property; the request for proposals does not set a rent rate but instead asks the bidder to propose a rate.
Goupil said that Voss did appear at visitors’ portion of a Board of Selectman meeting, but did not bid by April 15, the closing date for a request for proposal on the stand.
As of April 15, the town received one bid from EvRock LLC, the proprietors of Rocky’s Aqua, for $2,000 per month seasonally. The Town Dock Concession Committee will review the bid and provide its recommendation to the Board of Selectman shortly. The awarding of the bid will be addressed over the next few weeks at Board of Selectman meetings.
Several people upset with the town’s actions noted that the town had not previously sought bids for the location, and others proposed that the request had language that violated the town’s charter. Goupil pointed to section 6-2D, which states “The first selectman shall contract for all services and the purchases of supplies, equipment, and other commodities required by any town agency except the Board of Education, under the competitive bidding provisions of this charter” and section 10-6(b) which in part states “Informal bids shall be obtained for all purchases over $3,000. If any purchase order or contract, including a continuing order or contract for the purchase of the same commodity over a period of time, involves the expenditure of over $7,500, the first selectman shall invite sealed bids or proposals, giving then 10 days’ public notice...All such sealed bids or proposals shall be opened publicly and the purchase or contract awarded to the lowest qualified bidder thereon. The first selectman may reject all such bids or proposals and re-advertise if bidders fail to meet specifications.”
According to the request for proposals for the town dock concession, the first selectman reserves the right to reject any, or any part of, or all proposals; to waive informalities and technicalities; and to accept the bid the town deems to be in the best interest of the town, whether or not it is the lowest dollar amount.
“The town has certain expenses related to the town dock concession. Finding a proposal to reduce or ameliorate those expenses is appropriate for bidding. It certainly raises the question why the previous administrations did not put it out to contract during the 10 years or account for the expense to the town to operate the facility at a loss,” Goupil said.
While the issue has been a hot topic of discussion in recent days, Goupil did have kind words for the previous tenants of the stand.
“There’s no question Bob Voss, who took over the holiday dock operation, ran a fantastic summer business. The town and even my family enjoyed it,” she said. “On those perfect summer days, we would pick up lunch to take on the boat or walk down to the Dock in the mornings for an egg sandwich and pancakes for the kids. Their friendly faces and food will be missed.
“We hope the town and seasonal visitors welcome the new tenants this summer,” said Goupil.
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