By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
LINDSAY– The Lindsay Chamber of Commerce is at risk of losing 85% of their revenue if the Lindsay City Council decides to rip the Friday Night Market away from them and hand it to another organization later this month.
At the Feb. 26 City Council meeting, chamber supporters leapt at the chance to point the finger at the City for their recent admission that they over advanced money into the general fund from several other funds, including utility funds.
Last week, while the Council was still waiting on proposals for the market, they voted unanimously for the market to be held between 5 and 10 p.m. on Friday nights in downtown. The Council decided to keep the market in downtown in light of proposed alternative venues at the Olive Bowl and Ono City Parkway.
Now the Council will hear from potential organizations hoping to run the Friday Night Market, among them is the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce. For two years the chamber had been running the Market under contract with Lindsay, and agreeing to pay the City approximately $2,000 per week between 2017 and 2018. The chamber fell $20,000 behind over the two years ultimately breaching their contract.
At the Feb. 12 Council meeting chamber director Virginia Loya presented the City a $10,000 check. Then at the Feb. 26 Council meeting the Chamber presented a $3,071.58 check and claimed that their balance has been paid in full.
“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.”
Behind her during public comment was a collection of supporters from the public who were ready to throw their weight behind the Chamber and make their best argument for why the chamber should continue to operate the market.
Merci Herrera, president of the board for the chamber of commerce made reference to a recent article in The Sun-Gazette, and on the companion podcast Paper Trail, about the City’s transfer of millions of dollars from utility funds and into the general fund. At least part of which was to pay for McDermont.
“The Chamber has been a financial asset to the City’s general fund. Instead of working with the Chamber, the City denied the Chamber from operating the Friday Night Market. Now I hear the City…has been told they have poor bookkeeping, misappropriated funds and poor financial planning,” Herrera said. “Yet they have not been denied from operating the City’s funds like they have done to the Chamber and the Friday Night 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.
She went on to reference The Sun-Gazette article and Paper Trail Podcast, in particular Councilman Brian Watson’s quote regarding the City’s claim they are functionally bankrupt. He noted in his remarks to the Sun-Gazette that the United States could claim they are functionally bankrupt as well at $22 trillion in debt.
“That comparison makes no sense. Our government provides so many services and our City can’t even provide roads without potholes, not even a month ago we got a flat tire,” 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.
During discussion over the item, Watson said he was representing the anonymous business owners, identified by the special events ad hoc committee that Watson serves on along with councilwoman Laura 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.
During the meeting, Loya reemphasized the importance of the market to the Chamber’s yearly revenue. City manager Bill Zigler acknowledged as much in January when the City began to take steps toward handing the market to another organization.
“We feel the Friday Night Market should be given back to us, the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce…you know we are the ones that started it for revenue for our chamber,” Loya said.