LINDSAY – The Lindsay Chamber of Commerce’s days of running the Friday Night Market are over. After falling $20,000 behind on contractual payments to the City, Lindsay administration and three of the five councilmembers decided it is time to go with someone new.
There was very little discussion over nail in the Chamber’s coffin during the Lindsay City Council’s March 26 meeting. In fact, besides a motion by councilman Brian Watson and a second by councilwoman Laura Cortes, and the subsequent 3-2 vote with Yolanda Flores and Rosaena Sanchez in dissent, there was no discussion at all. The three affirmative votes gave city manager Bill Zigler the go-ahead to negotiate with Jimora Enterprises regarding the Friday Night Market.
The vote was a holdover from the March 12 meeting where Chamber supporters, along with Flores and Sanchez, clamored for a background check on Jimora Enterprises in light of accusation of illegal firearm possession. As a result, the vote was tabled till the next meeting, giving the City enough time to allow for a background check. Zigler says the City conducted one, but nothing of consequence came of it.
“Nothing was found that would preclude them from running the Market,” Zigler responded in an email to the Sun-Gazette.
Flores later said in an interview that two of the three business partners that make up Jimora Enterprises were once arrested for marijuana cultivation. They are still eligible to take on the Market now that cultivation is legal in the State of California.
During the March 12 meeting city clerk Bret Harmon announced the City was ready to move forward with Jimora Enterprises as they scored 91.2 on the City’s request for proposal (RFP). Other applicants, Hugo Flores and the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce, scored a 57.7 and 61.3 respectively. The Chamber’s lowest marks were an 8.3 out of 20 on the “quality of the provider’s performance on previous contracts with the City” section, and an 8.8 out of 20 on the “revenue sharing with the City” section.
The Chamber and their supporters have turned out for several council meetings to lobby the Council to re-award the Market to the Chamber. On February 12 and 26, Executive Director Virginia Loya handed the City checks of 10,000 and just over $3,000 in a good faith effort to retain the Market. Loya told the Sun-Gazette in January that without the Market, the Chamber will lose 85% of their annual revenue.
“The Chamber should have never been removed from managing the FNM. The chamber has helped the City generate extra funds and never were a problem to the City,” Loya said at the Feb. 26 meeting. “We breached our contract, yes we did, but we did not have the funding to cover the last charges.”
Meanwhile, downtown businesses said they worry about the loss of foot traffic near their store without the market.
Corina Sanchez, whose mother and her husband own a furniture store in town echoed Herrera’s comments while also sharing her personal connection to the market through her parents store. Sanchez said the market helps keep the store open. And with their business they are able to pay for her medical treatments.
“Personally, I think the chamber should have the market because it benefits the City greatly and it’s the main reason why we can still have the furniture store,” Sanchez said.
Former peace officer and certified public accountant Ramona Cadilla spoke during public comment to note that she had located to Lindsay to retire. Not from the area, Cadilla said she did not support McDermont and the City should consider putting their resources behind the chamber for the market.
“If you wanted to build up this town, start there,” Cadilla said.
Sylvia Contreras said, with councilwoman Laura Cortes translating during the March 12 meeting, that her business is in danger of closing without the Market. She added that the move to limit the Market’s footprint to Honolulu between Mirage and the ally just west of Sweetbrier Avenue along with a short quarter of the block north and south on Elmwood, is particularly concerning and unhelpful for business.
“How are you helping businesses if you’re leaving us out,” Contreras said.
During the Feb. 26 discussion, Watson said he was representing the anonymous business owners, identified by the special events ad hoc committee that he serves on along with Councilwoman Cortes, who have expressed deep concern over the Market.
“It is unfair that our largest employers who pay the most in taxes have been taking the brunt of lost revenue for 14 years. It’s time for a simple adjustment to see what works better…it could be a win-win for a lot more people,” Watson said.
Zigler said Jimora Enterprises is awaiting an evaluation from the California Health Department, and plans to begin operating the market as early as this Friday, April 5 or next Friday, April 12.