Sidney council made a flip Monday, rescinding its April 23 decision to oust the Sidney Business Association from managing the popular summer market.
Council reneged on their decision in camera, following a submission from the SBA’s lawyer, John Alexander.
In a press release issued Tuesday morning, Mayor Larry Cross said council’s decision was based on legal advice from the town’s solicitor. He added the May 18 annual general meeting for the SBA will bring new leadership to that group and could provide council with “the insight they need to determine the future of the market operations.”
But on April 30, Cross told the News Review the town had sought legal advice about cancelling the SBA’s contract and was confident in its move at the time.
In an interview Tuesday, Cross said the town’s lawyer had been consulted from the start. He said until Monday night, council was confident in its decision to terminate the agreement.
“All the [SBA] is seeking is to ask that you stand back, live with your agreement, like the taxpayers would expect you to do, not risk $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 of the taxpayers’ money,” Alexander told council Monday.
On April 23, Sidney council cancelled the SBA’s contract that allows them to run the market – which they have done for 12 years – then issued a request for proposals for new management.
The SBA responded with a letter hinting at legal action to recuperate money spent on preparing for the 2012 market, and other losses.
The 2012 market is scheduled to begin Thursday, June 7.
SBA president Edward Connor hadn’t heard about the decision swap when contacted by the Peninsula News Review Tuesday morning.
“Wow, that’s the best news I’ve heard all year,” he said. “[Alexander’s presentation] was so positive and condemning for the town that I think common sense prevailed and kudos to the town.
“I’m delighted the town is taking a big step toward [having confidence in] the SBA. We will not let the town down. We’ll run an awesome market.
Cross told the News Review the town would work with the SBA to change some aspects of the market to conform with merchants’ concerns.
“[There was an] agreement in place. … What the town can’t do is purport to unilaterally change the rules halfway through the season or halfway through the game,” Alexander said. “The resolution that you passed refers to a breach of trust. No notice about that, no explanation about it. In fact, I don’t know what that means. It’s a very serious allegation.”
In his press release, Cross said council was concerned the market situation had become “acrimonious” and the decision to terminate had been made “based upon the desire for the long-term sustainability of the market and in the interests of business merchants and entire community.
“If the newly elected [SBA] board determines they are committed to continuing to manage the market for the 2012 season and will do so on the conditions that were specifically agreed to at the March 23 ad-hoc working group meeting, then the town will continue with the agreement. If, however, the new board has a different perspective and does not wish to operate the market, then the town will certainly proceed with the RFP process.”
“The last thing the town wants is to burden its taxpayers with a long, drawn out and expensive legal battle with the SBA,” Cross said. “Council has always said that there will be a market on Beacon Avenue this summer and that’s what we’re committed to. Therefore, it’s time to take the high road and put this matter behind us, so that we can move forward and continue to improve upon the market in years to come.”