City puts out call for proposals to run farmers market

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WALLA WALLA — City officials have not renewed the lease for the Walla Walla Valley Farmers Market and are asking for proposals from would-be operators, citing recent issues between vendors and management as the reason.

“Given the issues surrounding the farmers market over the past few months it did not seem prudent to just renew the lease,” City Manager Nabiel Shawa wrote in an email.

On Friday, the request for proposals period opened; the deadline to submit a proposal is Jan. 4.

So far, two organizations have stepped up to the plate and requested packets.

One is the current operator, the Walla Walla Valley Farmers Market, whose vice president, Bud Locati, said prior to losing the lease they had already planned on a number of changes to deal with problems between vendors and management.

“Some changes are to simplify rules a little bit, and we want to involve vendors in discussions and disputes,” Locati said. He added that group’s proposal will also include changes with accounting and booking and that they are bringing in consultants to advise them on those changes.

The other organization that requested a packet is the same one that in 2007 gave up operating of the market because it didn’t want to compete with the fledgeling Walla Walla Valley Farmers Market Association.

For a decade the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation ran the market. But when vendors said they would submit a bid to the city, the foundation pulled out.

The city leases the market property, which includes Crawford Park and the City Hall parking lot.

In the past, city officials have agreed to use their rental income to make improvements to the site. It was unclear if that process would continue.

Because the city is requesting proposals, rather than bids, city officials are not limited to choosing the most lucrative deal, but will also look at the “most advantageous to the city with respect to the business plan” and “the proposed process for resolution of conflict in a professional manner,” according to the request for proposals.

A copy of the request for proposals is available at ci.walla-walla.wa.us.

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