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Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

LAUDERDALE LAKES: The city has signed a contract with Florida Coca-Cola Bottling Co., making it the newest in the long line of cola cities in Broward County and throughout the country.

As a result, only Coke beverages and snacks will be sold through vending machines on city property, at the city’s parks and at city-sponsored events. The contract is worth about $162,000 over five years.

“It’s excellent,” said Parks and Recreation Director Patrick Cann. “We were doing vending [in the past] without getting any benefits from the vendors. This is something that’s happening throughout the country.”

In the five-year package, the city will receive financial and other support valued at $32,000, including $5,000 in cash each year. New beverage and snack machines have been installed in both city parks and at other city buildings.

According to the city purchasing manager, Arthur Elinson, the contract also provides the city with promotional items, products for concession, 20 percent commission from all snack machines, and another 20 percent commission from six of the beverage machines.

The parks department will benefit from a $20,000 scoreboard fund. Cann said first-class scoreboards are in the works for Willie L. Webb Sr. Park on Northwest 21st Street; the 15-year-old boards at Vincent Torres Memorial Park might be replaced later.

City staff and officials say the previous vending system did not serve the city well.

“The city commissioners felt it was important to bring in a quality, first-class vending-type organization, as opposed to the also-ran way it was done in the past,” said Elinson, the city’s chief negotiator on the Coke deal.

The city sent out two requests for proposals to 13 companies and got two responses — from Coke and Pepsi companies.

“We did research and determined many cities have deals with Coke and some with Pepsi,” Elinson said. “We were looking for nontraditional sources of revenue, and Coke gets to develop brand recognition and brand loyalty. And there is the image from dealing with the city.”

Exclusive Coke contracts have popped up in the past few years in Lauderhill, Davie, Lighthouse Point, Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, Dania Beach, Pembroke Pines, North Lauderdale and Wilton Manors. Pepsi deals sprouted in Tamarac and Hollywood. And at Broward Community College, Coke is it.

Lauderhill signed its contract with the Tampa-based Florida Coca-Cola Bottling in 2000. It’s worth $240,000 over five years and includes an annual $1,000 scholarship for students.

Larger cities have cut richer deals. In 1999, San Diego signed a 10-year contract with Pepsi estimated at $23 million over 12 years, with a $1.5 million cash payment.

Cola contracts have also been frothy with criticism.

Groups such as the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights have said such beverage contracts send the wrong messages to children that “communities can be purchased.” In schools that have these exclusive deals, some parents have complained they make children pawns in a high-stakes brand loyalty game.

But cities need money and, Elinson said, if they’re going to allow beverage vending, the deal is better “than when the city got nothing.”

Lauderdale Lakes City Commissioner Hazelle Rogers calls the contract another step in “building community partners.” Plus, she said the city got support from some residents when the Coke deal was brokered.

“We didn’t go into this blindly,” Rogers said. ‘This is a way for corporations to give back to the communities that support them.”

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