The Wellington Village Council on Tuesday directed its staff to analyze letters of interest in operating the Wellington Green Market with a focus on improving attendance, which has waned over the past year or two.
Finance Director Ed De La Vega said that after council members had voiced concerns about attendance, a new request for a green market operator was sent out last month, which generated five letters of interest by the deadline, which was Oct. 7.
Village staff had evaluated and categorized each of the proposals, based on criteria including services they would provide and compensation back to the village.
“We are bringing it back basically seeking direction on what to do moving forward,” De La Vega said, adding that four of the five potential vendors were at the meeting.
The current operator, Peter Robinson, was not there.
Parks & Recreation Director Bruce DeLaney said that all five have a background in operating green markets or in staging public events.
“They seem to all have the qualifications to be able to operate a green market here,” DeLaney said, explaining that three are currently operating one or more green markets, one who has operated a market in the past and one who has operated multiple types of events.
“If there is displeasure with the current market, then I would recommend that you take a look at the four other applicants,” he said. “The other thing that had been brought up in the past was the amount of compensation paid to the village under the previous arrangement that we had.”
Each of the proposers had provided either a percentage or a flat amount to compensate the village.
Councilman Matt Willhite said that he did not feel that the Wellington Green Market in its most recent form lived up to village standards. “It’s my thought that it’s not successful,” Willhite said. “I don’t know if it’s their operation or a lack of possibilities. What I do know is what we’re providing is not the quality and standard of Wellington events. I do know that when I suggested other things to the current operator, they were not met with… openness.”
Willhite said he would like to try and revive the green market rather than let it go on as it is.
“I’m encouraged that five people have applied,” he said. “What’s not encouraging is that we just kept going with the same person who didn’t have a contract with us.”
Willhite asked if any of the applicants could get a green market going in the next six weeks, and DeLaney said that all the applicants felt that they could get a green market started in a reasonable amount of time.
De La Vega said the solicitation for letters of interest stated from November 2015 to March 2016.
Willhite said that he was not looking for the village to make money on the green market, but to get some return on costs, and De La Vega said his staff had tried to come up with a scenario that they could use to compare the estimated amount of return.
The current operator had indicated that he would return $2,400 to the village, although the village had collected only $1,000 from him last year.
Director of Operations Jim Barnes said that $1,000 was all that he had been required to return to the village, and explained that the cost to run it is minimal, and vendors are responsible for their own tents and cleaning up after themselves.
Willhite suggested moving the location to Sundays and/or to Village Park on Pierson Road. However, DeLaney said he felt that Village Park was not the right spot logistically.
Willhite added that he felt another issue was competition with other nearby green markets, and DeLaney agreed. “I’m sure that there is competition for vendors,” he said.
Willhite also suggested teaming with food trucks. “We know that is very successful,” he said.
Councilman John McGovern agreed that the interest has been flagging.
“The spark has been lost at this event,” McGovern said, adding that he was also encouraged that there were five responses.
Barnes said that he would not recommend a formal selection process if the council decided to consider another vendor, and Village Manager Paul Schofield added that these types of decisions are typically handled at the staff level, and that they would also consider a Sunday operation.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig felt that the current location would be more attractive when the new Wellington Community Center is finished.
“When we have the new center done, it will be more conducive,” Gerwig said. “We don’t have foot traffic. Once the site is done, we will have that.”
Gerwig added that she felt that a switch to Sundays would not make it successful. “Part of the problem is we don’t have a downtown feel,” she said. “You have to drive to it.”
Vice Mayor John Greene said he had no problem referring the issue to staff for a decision. “Just make sure it represents the village,” he said. “We’re not going to solve anything now.”
Willhite agreed to let it go back to staff, but stressed, “This is on our radar.”