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Aldermen Donate $1,150 from Maintenance Fees to Help OXCM

The Oxford Board of Aldermen voted Monday to donate $1,150 to the Oxford Community Market that the city normally would have collected over the next six months from the rent the market pays to use the Old Armory Pavilion.

The pavilion is owned by the city but managed, via a contract, by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. OXCM has been paying $50 a week to host the weekly market on Tuesday year-round, which is discounted from the $150 charged to other organizations to use the pavilion.

According to the contract between the city and YAC, $50 of any rent collected goes back to the city to help cover costs for maintenance of the pavilion.

Recently, YAC told OXCM that their rent for 2020 would be going up to $100 a week and then $150 to coincide with what other organizations pay.

“The OXCM market rent is not being raised but the discount provided and sponsored by the Arts Council as was agreed to years ago is being phased out,” Wayne Andrews, director of YAC, told Hotty Toddy News on Tuesday. He was not at the Aldermen meeting. “Our offer to provide the Old Armory Pavilion to the Oxford Community Market when they were in search of a new location provided a discount to allow them time to develop a budget, secure funding, and grow into the rent.”

On Monday, Douglas Davis, chairman of the OXCM Board of Directors, asked the Board of Aldermen to waive its portion of rental fees for 2020 and to waive the $50 for the next five years to allow the market to continue to grow.

“We also ask that for the next five years, our rental fee for our minimal use of the Old Armory Pavilion remains consistent with both the scale of our small organization and the large contribution we make to the social fabric of our community,” Davis said to the Board.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the Board of Aldermen cannot legally bind future Boards to decisions made by the current Board.

Elections for aldermen will be held in June.

The Board voted unanimously to donate back the $50 for the six remaining months of the current Board of Aldermen, which equals $1,150.

Tannehill said OXCM would have to make longer-term requests to the new Board after June.

Andrews said YAC is currently not receiving any money from the OXCM market since the full $50 goes to the city.

“The Arts Council request of OXCM is for the rate to increase to $100 per week for a total of $5200 a year,” Andrews said Tuesday. “We have noted that full rent is $150 per week thus they would still be receiving a discount off the rental rate.”

Andrews said all of the rent does not have to be paid in cash.

“YAC extended the option to invest in the Pavilion,” Andrews said. “That the value of improvements based on their needs would be accepted in lieu of rent. These improvements would have to be approved by the city. Discussion such as sides or heaters which would make the facility more functional for the market has been part of the big picture thinking.”

Davis told the Aldermen that OXCM had been open to making improvements prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which caused the market to lose revenue.

“This sharp increase (in rent) threatens our small, young organization’s ability to provide the unduplicated programs that serve so many of our most vulnerable citizens – especially following a year filled with unprecedented challenges and facing a new year filled with deep economic uncertainty,” Davis said.

Davis told the Board that the farmer’s market is not just a weekly market, but has been involved in several community outreach programs to help provide food assistance to all local residents in need. Some of the highlights he mentioned from 2020 include:

● Providing $7,962 in Market Fresh Gift Cards (vouchers) for under-served citizens to access fresh food at OXCM.

● Participating in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program in partnership with the Mississippi Dept. of Agriculture which provided $13,000 in FMNP vouchers for Lafayette County WIC, Senior, and Healthy Start clients.

● Providing weekly deliveries of market goods to the Oxford Food Pantry and the home-bound, an estimated 3,600 lbs. of food over the course of the season.

● Providing 78 large family-sized bags of fresh local food for Pantry clients and home-bound seniors at Thanksgiving through our Harvest Angel project.

● Establishing the CB Webb Neighborhood Resilience Garden and ongoing outreach programming to engage families in the local food community.

● Partnering with the University of Mississippi Greek community to provide over 900 free meals for residents of CB Webb and Canterbury Crest.

● Hosting five “pop-up” markets in under-served communities which provided free deliveries of local food to residents of CB and Canterbury Crest.

● Establishing and stocking a Little Free Pantry in early December that has already provided an estimated $1,000 of food for families in need.

● Providing over 130 Healthy Halloween Bags and 100 Christmas bags of food and toiletries for children and seniors at CB Webb and Canterbury Crest.

Tannehill commended the market for its outreach projects and its work in ensuring food stability for Oxford residents; however, she reminded Davis and the other OXCM board members at the meeting that the city contracts with YAC and does not manage the rental fees.

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