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Council awards farmers market contract to Cipponeri
TCFM officially withdraws proposal
Hillary Smith, co-owner of Main Street restaurant LaMo, suggests that the City Council delay the farmers market vote another week to allow for discussion with downtown business owners. The Council went ahead and awarded the contract to Peter Cipponeri. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Peter Cipponeri and the Golden State Farmers Market Association will be operating a Turlock downtown farmers market for the next three years, following a 3-2 vote by the Turlock City Council Tuesday.

The City Council was expected to revisit proposals submitted earlier this month to operate the downtown farmers market from two entities — GSFMA, a for profit business operated by local grower Cipponeri and his wife, and the Turlock Certified Farmers Market Association, the nonprofit organization which has been running the downtown market for the past five years.

TCFM, however, officially withdrew its proposal on Monday.

"Turlock Certified Farmers Market Board is withdrawing its proposal No. 16-342. We wish to thank you for allowing us this opportunity to bid to continue to operate a market in Downtown Turlock.

"We were contacted by Gail Hayden regarding a meeting with Peter Cipponeri. We agreed because we believe that it is never a mistake to sit down at a table and listen. We were informed Sunday that Peter decided not to meet for reasons unknown to us.

"We want to thank you for your partnership over the past six years. The City of Turlock, as well as the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association, were instrumental in the success of TCFM," states the letter TCFM Board President Elizabeth Claes sent to the City on Monday.

Despite TCFM's official withdrawal from the proposal process, many residents still wanted to see the nonprofit operating the downtown market.

"I would still encourage the Council tonight to vote for their proposal. Show them your support. I urge you, and the majority here tonight, we urge you, please back TCFM," said Turlock resident Scott Snyder.

TCFM Board member and market vendor George Kapor said that members of the board had been "bullied, criticized and chastised" by the recent actions of the City Council and the volunteer group's "enthusiasm and excitement was replaced with disappointment and exhaustion."

Council member Bill DeHart — one of the two dissenting votes, along with Councilman Steven Nascimento —urged the Council to set aside the RFP process and put a moratorium on the farmers market issue until December to give the City more time to find the right thing to do.

"I see the innards of the city being eviscerated over this issue in the public square," said DeHart.

"There's got to be a better way. This process isn't it...awarding this contract will only make matters worse."

Nascimento agreed with DeHart saying that the Council's decision to turn a street closure request conflict into a RFP process has "not been a productive process, but a destructive process."

He also said that Cipponeri does not have the experience needed to take over the Saturday morning downtown market.

"I appreciate Peter's energy and his wanting to do something for the community, but...I can't support handing over such a valuable asset to our community after only six months of running a market," said Nascimento speaking of Cipponeri's six months of experience in running the Carmel, California farmers market.

Mayor Gary Soiseth expressed his disappointment a number of times at TCFM's decision to pull out of the RFP process and even tried a last-ditch effort to get members of the TCFM Board present at Tuesday's Council meeting and Cipponeri to come to some sort of collaborative effort for a joint proposal in a closed door meeting held during a recess.

The Mayor said that an agreement could not be found.

"It's disappointing not to be able to come together, it's not the spirit of cooperation that I want as Mayor. I don't think robbing the City of Turlock of a farmers market is the appropriate action," said Soiseth.

Nascimento had a different view on the situation.

"For six years we had collaboration and cooperation with the Turlock Certified Farmers Market..we had the partner that we needed...we put ourselves in the place where there are no good options," he said.