City and Farmers Market reach one-year lease agreement

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Councillor Keith Riel is concerned the new lease agreement with the PDFMA doesn't address current issues. – Feb 19, 2018

The Peterborough and District Farmers’ Market Association (PDFMA) and the City of Peterborough have reached a new lease agreement for 2018. But as councilor Keith Riel suggests, it’s not what’s in the lease agreement that has people talking, but what’s missing.

READ MORE: Coun. Diane Therrien calls on city staff to step in to help settle Peterborough Farmers’ Market dispute

Riel admits he has still not read the entire 12-page agreement, for which he was told he’d have to get a Freedom of Information request.

“The mayor told me that I had to go and do that (FOI request) and that’s fine. I don’t want any special favours. But then he said in the paper that he had read the document,” said Riel. “Well, why not let me read the document? Don’t give me the copy, but let me read it.”

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The City of Peterborough signed off on the one-year lease agreement for the PDFMA to manage, supervise and operate the Saturday market, while the city acts as landlords. The city owns the R.A. Morrow building and the grounds where the market is held.

Councillor Riel has been vocal at council, calling on the city to do more to help settle the feud between the market board, its members and seven vendors who are facing eviction.

CHEX News learned on Friday, the board terminated the membership of vendor Sax Lynn Francisco and her business Necessitea Elixir. We reached out to the board’s president and communications manager for comment but did not hear back by our deadline.

As for the lease agreement, Riel says there’s nothing in the document that says anything about signage or indicating the food’s origins, which he says sparked the conflict.

“I was led to believe there was going to be all kinds of bells and whistles put in here and one of those things had to do with signage,” he said. “I haven’t seen the document but I am told it’s not in there.”

READ MORE: Farmers’ Network offers to take over Peterborough Farmers’ Market

A motion was made at city hall in January by councilor Diane Therrien, asking the city to look at putting out a request for proposals for a third party to manage the market, but that was turned down. Instead, staff recommended signing a year-long lease agreement with the current board and allowing them the time to iron out any issues.

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If the city is not satisfied they could act accordingly in a year’s time. Still, Riel thinks the city should be doing more.

“The fight between these two groups and hiring legal firms is getting expensive and it gets dragged out in the courts,” said Riel. “I think at the end of the day the city is going to get dragged into this because we are the landlord and as far as I am concerned, this is no different. This is a workplace and we have to ensure its a harassment-free workplace.”

City staff has pressed the farmers market to update its bylaws and to comply with a signage request to better indicate where the food is grown.

Market board member and vendor Jill Staples says the board has been working hard behind the scenes to update its website and this Saturday they’ll introduce its new signage program.