EO file photo
Hermiston Farmer’s Market vendors gathered for a meeting Wednesday night about the upcoming season, but were instead told the market is canceled for this year.
“I’ve got some news you all are probably not going to be happy about,” Mitch Myers told the group.
Myers, owner of Mitco Investments, had taken on responsibility for the farmer’s market this year in anticipation of holding it at the new 4,000-square-foot, open-air Maxwell Pavilion he is constructing on South First Street. But he said city building inspector Chuck Woolsey has ordered work on the site to stop and has placed unreasonable demands on Mitco in what Myers said must be a “power trip” against him for personal reasons.
Reading a news release penned by his attorney Brent Smith, Myers stated that “Mitco is evaluating all options for moving the project forward but it is unclear at this time when this dispute will be resolved. ... It is with great regret that Mitco announces as the result of the building official’s wrongful actions Mitco is unable to commit to the sponsors, vendors, performers, advertisers and others which planned to participate in the Hermiston Farmer’s Market this year.”
Assistant city manager Mark Morgan, reached Wednesday night, said the city could not comment on the situation due to the notice Myers’ attorney sent the city of intention to sue. That suit deals with the stop-work order on the Maxwell Pavilion and a second stop-work order in place since February against a nearby former coal bin building that Myers had been working to turn into a restaurant.
City employees had previously worked with Myers on various aspects of the Maxwell Pavilion project, located at 255 S. First Place across from Bi-Mart. Myers said he had conversations with parks and recreation director Larry Fetter about taking over the farmer’s market, and in October the city signed an agreement with Mitco that the Hermiston Urban Renewal Agency would contribute up to $220,000 toward the project if the accompanying parking lot was left open to free use by the public.
But in an hour-long, often colorful speech, Myers told vendors present at Wednesday night’s meeting that dealing with the city’s building department was like “playing chess with a pigeon” because Woolsey was “full of poop” and others at city hall needed to “grow a pair” and handle the problem.
He said the Maxwell Pavilion was a pre-engineered metal shade structure less than 4,000 square feet with no walls, doors, restrooms, heating or other elements to complicate it. It would take two to four weeks to finish construction, he said. He asked the audience why the city building department chose to order all site preparation halted and mail him a long list of concerns he had to answer to, such as submitting a plan for door latches, before the site plan review could take place. Myers said it seemed that more was being required of him than more complex projects in town and the only reason he could think of was that a city employee was acting for personal reasons.
Vendors present at the meeting expressed disappointment in the cancellation of the farmer’s market, which had been planned for Thursday nights from June 7 to October 4 at the Maxwell Pavilion. One questioned why the city would hold up the farmer’s market, and some asked if sponsorships, entertainment bookings and other work Myers had done on the project couldn’t be moved to a different location, or if they couldn’t just erect tents on the pavilion site.
Myers said for liability reasons he felt he couldn’t hold it there after some excavation had already been done. He said the city could always decide to hold something on the new downtown festival street — which he called “their monument to themselves” — which is expected to be completed around Memorial Day.
Myers encouraged vendors to share the news release on social media and show up to complain to the city council and city manager during their Monday meeting.
“They have been sitting idly on this and apparently they don’t care about small businesses and people working to make the community better,” Myers said.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.