by: Bill Jones, St. Augustine Beach Civic Association

As many of you know the Wednesday Market created and built by the Civic Association almost 20 years ago has been hijacked by the County.

In 2013 a handful of people with agendas of their own started lobbying for the county to put the market out for bid (RFP) and 5 years later they have succeeded.

An RFP was put out requirements and terms that were very favorable to a for profit organization and not so favorable to non-profits. This was evidenced as 3 for profits and only one non-profit submitted proposals.

The RFP issued by the county was required the bidders to pay $250 dollars per week to operate the market plus a percentage of its weekly revenue. $250 equates to 24% of our weekly revenue before other expenses. Add in traffic / police, and administrative costs including insurance and marketing we found ourselves at over 55% of budget.

Add in the 20 or so percent it would have taken to win the bid and we would have been up near 75% of our revenue. The leaving us just 25% or about $13,000 a year in profit. A good deal for the County’s budget but a bad deal for the community.

Our proposal would have paid the County its $250 a week and all necessary market expenses and would have allowed us to fund Music by the Sea, Taste of the Beach, and Surf Illumination. Additionally we would have been able to give $4000 to sponsor City events and continue to make donations to other community non-profits.

Our proposal would have more than covered any expenses incurred by the County and put another $40K plus back into the community.

The top two for profit companies are operated by good people with some experience but they have no obligation to do anything more than run the market and enjoy the profits.

One has to ask if this trade was really good for the community as a whole. The County Commission will take on this topic we think in July. They may accept the scoring and give the Market to one of the for profit groups.

The Commission still has the power to say the greater community benefit lies with the Civic Association.

We’ll see if the Commissioners believe the public interest outweighs a few extra bucks. By the way the RFP also includes a clause that allows the County to relocate the market to ANY other county facility with a 30 day notice.

So was this all a ploy to satisfy voters in an election year and then move the market out of Pier Park after the vote?

On a brighter note The Civic Association raised more than $2000 for local artist, volunteer and father of 3 children, Paul Slava.

Paul is a recent liver transplant recipient and our fundraise will help ease a little of the financial burden that comes with this type of thing. Thanks to all that gave and good luck to Paul and his family.

Finally there will be no market and no concert on July 4th. At the request of County Parks & Rec and our Police, we are standing down on Independence Day to ease parking pressure at the Pier Park and will be back for everyone on July 11th.

To see the concert and restaurant schedule please visit our website at www.freebeachconcerts.com