The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met in a special session Nov. 10th. The meeting addressed their legally required obligation to comment on and make recommendations for the annual budget prepared by market manager Department of General Services (DGS) for the operation of Eastern Market.
EMCAC’s comments and recommendations are to accompany the budget submitted by DGS to the Executive Office of the Mayor on Nov. 12th.
EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder argued that EMCAC is hamstrung in its deliberations. “It is clear to me that the process, the deadlines have outpaced the legislation,” she said. “We have to produce comments before we have a final accounting of the fiscal year.”
Scheeder said that, even if the committee had that data, she was unsure how they would proceed, given the impact of COVID-19 on the market.
Monte Edwards, Chair of the EMCAC Capital Improvements Committee told the meeting that the proposed DGS budget data were “confusing and inaccurate.” As an illustration, he said, the cost of HVAC repair in the budget is in excess of $1.2 million rather than the $680,000 proposed recently by DGS.
In addition stonework repair to replace tiles falling off the South Hall and presenting a danger to those entering the Pottery Studio is to exceed the initial $85,000 estimate. It is now estimated the total cost of replacement will be $441,600.
Edwards said that the FY23 budget should include more than one million dollars to pay for the remaining stonework and the remaining cost of the $869,556 in repairs, including for HVAC, that will not be completed in FY22.
$330,000 has been allocated in the budget for a bollard security system and $76,000 for a public address system. But as the meeting unfolded the need to repair a freight elevator in the South Hall was added to a list of needed capital improvements. There was no estimated cost for that repair, which is not yet listed in any part of the budget.
EMCAC members worked through a thicket of repairs and capital improvements, determining how they are budgeted and in which fiscal years. Some items were included as part of the FY22 budget, which began Oct. 1, 2021. Other repairs and improvements were listed as tentatively budgeted for FY23, for the process is just beginning.
Scheeder said that, building on the effort and success of previous years, EMCAC is now more fully part of the budget process: “We are more effective now at providing oversight. “
The total requested by EMCAC for FY23 is $1.2 million.
Scheeder reiterated the problem with lack of FY21 data, needed to make appropriate judgments for FY23 budget operations. She called for more thorough financial analysis as a preliminary step prior to accepting or rejecting DGS’ proposed recommendations.
DGS proposes to up revenue streams via rent increases for the weekend and Tuesday vendors and the South Hall merchants. EMCAC members took the position that these recommendations do not merit an EMCAC review of the increase in revenue stream proposals as required in the legislation.
Independent community member Tom Kuchenberg, lamented that once again the “decades” long lease negotiation remained unresolved. Leases remain unsigned even as rental increases are being proposed as a way to strengthen revenue streams.
There is a provision for annual South Hall increases in the legislation tied to the CPI along with provisions for leases.
Finally, discussion turned to market management advertising planned to hasten a return to pre-COVID days. EMCAC reminded DGS and on-site market manager Barry Margeson that any marketing plan should include and “ensure that current policies regarding COVID practices are established and publicized.”
The Eastern Market report on capital improvements and operations recommendations was passed unanimously.
Peter J. Waldron is a long-time Hill resident and a former Chair of ANC6B and has been reporting on the Eastern Market for thirteen years. Waldron can be reached at [email protected]