Several possibilities were discussed at the Nov. 20 Osceola City Council meeting after Osceola City Administrator/Clerk Ty Wheeler brought to council’s attention a request for vending services at the depot.
According to Wheeler, members of the Historic Preservation Commission asked for vending services at the depot after discussions with Amtrak passengers highlighted a need for such services.
That request sparked debate among the council, as several possibilities were discussed, including the possibility of food trucks and highlighting local businesses. The initial proposal of entering into a contract with Canteen for vending services was tabled and Mayor Thomas Kedley requested that a possible action item to change city code to allow food trucks be added to the agenda for the Dec. 4 meeting.
Need for vending
The need for vending services was brought about by feedback from Amtrak passengers.
“Most who are traveling on Amtrak have a large amount of luggage. There isn’t a place to store that luggage if they leave the depot and go out, grab a bite to eat or whatever,” Wheeler said. “The reason there is not, if you’ll remember, we did have plans in the original depot project concept for some luggage lockers, but those were nixed by Amtrak when we found out lockers in any public transit terminal are now a no go for safety reasons.”
Wheeler contacted several large employers in Osceola to find out what they use for vending. He kept getting referred back to Canteen.
Canteen looked at the depot and offered to place a beverage machine and snack machine in the depot at no charge to the city and with Canteen providing all maintenance and stocking of the machines. Canteen requested a two-year contract with the city, but with an option to remove the machines if sales fell below $75 per week.
Ward 1 Councilman Doug Gay expressed concern that adding vending machines to the depot would create a mess, as more food and beverage containers would end up on the ground.
“We will need some reimbursement to cover the cleanup. There will be a higher volume of garbage,” At-Large Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis added. “It would be nice, but we have the hidden cost associated with it. I don’t know how much that would be to clean up.”
After discussing looking into a possible lease option and bidding the project out, Kedley introduced a new idea.
“It would be nice to spotlight some of our local businesses in town. They could bring in a food cart or something and cater it throughout the day,” Kedley said. “Can a food truck park in the depot parking lot?”
Wheeler noted that, currently, food trucks would not be able to park in the depot parking lot since it is public property and that, to do so, city code would need to be changed.
Kedley said he feels the city should go above just a vending machine to leave a better impression on visitors to the city.
“I’d like to see food trucks in the parking lot of the depot,” Kedley said. “It’s the 21st Century. Have you ever seen downtown Des Moines? I know I hear people say, ‘We’re not downtown Des Moines.’ You’re right, but it’d be nice to see a food truck or two for people so they’re not eating Cheetos out of a vending machine.”
Gay agreed with Kedley that highlighting local businesses would be a good idea, but said he fears it will be more trouble than it is worth for local businesses.
“I agree with you. I think it’s a good idea, but you’re not going to entice somebody to go out there, especially in the nighttime hours, to peddle whatever food they’re selling for the little bit of money they’re going to make out there,” Gay said. “They’re not going to make enough money to where it’s worth their while in the food industry to do that.”
“Maybe not. You’re right, but why not give the liberty to the citizens to do that?” Kedley said. “I agree with you, it might not happen. I’d like to see it on the next agenda.”
Ward 3 Councilman Dave Walkup said he has been a part of committees that have discussed this before and nothing was ever done because no one could come to an agreement.
“What you’re going to be doing is hopefully you’re going to have your Osceola people support that,” Walkup said.