By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
NASSAU Straw Market vendors yesterday criticised the Straw Market Authority’s (SMA) decision to reportedly throw away goods from the stalls of delinquent vendors.
Some sellers said the SMA should have been more lenient with vendors, while others said at the very least the goods should have been auctioned off instead of being sent to the dump.
Straw Business Person Society (SBPS) vice-president Rebecca Small particularly noted that nothing in the rulebook states SMA has the right to throw away delinquent vendors’ goods.
These criticisms are the latest in a series of complaints vendors have lobbied against the SMA over the past year, which culminated in a protest in Rawson Square in April.
Yesterday, Ms Small told The Tribune the dumpsters arrived at the downtown Straw Market on Tuesday evening.
James Rolle, a vendor, said he witnessed their arrival and claimed he asked a member of the SMA about their presence.
“I saw the truck coming with (one of) the dumpsters,” Mr Rolle said. “I asked one of the guys in the authority, ‘what y’all doing with the dumpster?’ He said that they’re cleaning up the market.
“I said ‘what you mean cleaning up?’, he said some of the stalls (where) the people ain’t pay no rent for maybe a year, a year and a half on some of them, (the stalls) went back to the Authority.
“And (the SMA) say they call them over a month ago and tell them come for their goods. So they ain’t never came for them. So they’re in the (process) of giving the stalls to other vendors who want it. So they had to clean it up.”
Mr Rolle could not provide an estimate of how many stalls were cleared out, but he said he knew there were “a lot” of closed up shops throughout the market.
Andrew Moses Armbrister, another vendor and wood carver, reiterated that delinquent vendors were given notice by SMA “quite some time ago”.
“Because what happened is these persons’ stalls were closed down, so they were not allowed to open up their shop…(because) they owed money. And that they didn’t pay,” Mr Armbrister added.
“Actually the stalls are now taken away from them. So they asked them to come for their stuff, they never came for their stuff. So I guess they get fed up and they bring about two containers last night and everything went to the dump.”
However, Mr Armbrister criticised this choice, saying the goods should have instead been sold.
“When you look at it, (they) could’ve keep them and auctioned them off or something. Instead of just throwing away…quality, good stuff.
“I don’t know if they (SMA officials) have storage to keep them in, but like I say, auction them off or something. They shouldn’t have just thrown them to the dump.
“Goods, souvenirs, straw work…Everything went to the dump.”
Regarding SMA’s current process for such issues, Ms Small said the group normally reaches out to a vendor first and if the person cannot be contacted, the organisation throws the goods away.
“If they can’t reach the vendor, they’ll say the vendor wasn’t able to be reached and so we can’t pay for storage and we (are) dumping the stuff. We have a problem with that. I have a problem with that…that they are…dumping things people paid for.”
Ms Small yesterday called for “due process” to be taken instead.
“I feel that even if they put those things out on auction where other vendors could benefit or something...it’s nothing in them to work along with us,” she added.
“You know what bothers us?” Ms Small continued, “They never have monies to do anything. But when it’s time to hire dumpster, do anything against the vendors, they always find it.”
When asked if anything in the vendors’ agreement provides for the goods of delinquent vendors to be thrown away, Ms Small said “no”.
“No. Nothing in the rulebook. Their position with this is: We are the authority, and in the rulebook it states that we are to manage, and whatever we find, deem necessary, we will do it. That’s what their position is. Nothing in the rulebook states that.”
Ms Small said SMA’s managing director told vendors that some stalls had been closed since 2014.
However, Ms Small said vendors were not allowed to get their items after their stalls were shut down.
“If the vendor owed them $800 (for example), and the vendor shop was closed, the vendor was not allowed to go back to get their stuff,” Ms Small said. “If a sign says closed, they will not allow the vendor to go and get their stuff. We know that for a fact.”
During a press conference held on July 19, the SBPS called for the Nassau Straw Market to be removed from the portfolio of Works Minister Desmond Bannister.
Less than a week earlier, Mr Bannister told The Tribune that there are vendors who have not paid rent for “three, four years.” He added that such a backlog makes it difficult for the SMA to find a way for the Straw Market to exist.
However, the SBPS board members, supported by Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin, said since this administration took office, it has “demanded” that rent arrears be $200 or less.
Attempts to secure a response from SMA officials were unsuccessful yesterday.