Tensions between the vendors at the Central Kingstown Market and the Kingstown Town Board have simmered somewhat, following two days of protest by the vendors.
On Monday and Tuesday, more than a dozen vendors vented their frustrations outside the city’s main market calling for the Kingstown Town Board to return their fruits, vegetables and other stall produce and materials which they allegedly removed without the knowledge or permission of the vendors during a weekend clean-up.
Vendors said the items were thrown into two of the market’s garbage rooms which they arrived to find locked on Monday, October 24.
A notice from the Town Board was posted inside the market informing shop operators, vendors, and boutique owners that there will be power washing, cleaning and clearing of the market from Saturday October 15 and “will continue until the market is back to its original state when it was first opened”.
The notice also said vendors are expected to remove all items that were not built-in from the stalls.
“Any items such as tables, benches, racks, pallets and carts which are left in the market will be discarded,” the notice concluded.
Produce vendor, Bertland Joseph told SEARCHLIGHT the information coming from the Town Board has been inconsistent.
“They came back after and said they are going to change the date for cleaning. They said to us on Saturday that they never ready to do anything. We abide by the rules and do what they tell us to do.
All our produce that we use to make our money, they say we can store them in here cause they not ready yet. Even on Saturday they tell us that. But as we came in this morning, we met everything in the garbage room.”
Joseph said he estimates he has lost around $30,000 as the garbage room is infested with rats and cockroaches and the goods and produce will now be unfit for sale.
Another vendor, who spoke to the media, said the situation is frustrating as she called for there to be better management of the Town Board.
“Since morning now we can’t pack out. Since my trolley go in the garbage room, it flat. I had five pair of shoes that I leave [in the market] and they disappear. And them shoes is all $250 and $300.”
When SEARCHLIGHT visited the market on the eve of Independence Day, vendors said that they were able to retrieve some of their items from the garbage bay on Tuesday. They re-emphasized the call for better communication between vendors and the Town Board.
SEARCHLIGHT spoke to Warden of the Kingstown Board, Clayton Burgin who said vendors were given adequate notice of the intended clean-up.
“They had that notice more than a week in advance, then on Friday afternoon I personally walked the whole market top to bottom and reminded them what we are about to do.”
Defending the actions of the team who conducted the clean-up, Burgin said vendors are aware that additional furnishings and other materials built onto stalls are not permitted.
“All the extensions like tables and what not are prohibited. They were told to remove them so we can do the cleaning.”
Under the rules and regulations set out for vendors, clause number 23 states “no tables, boxes or other obstruction shall be placed in front or around the stalls”.
Burgin went on to say some vendors “were defiant” when they were told about the scheduled clean up and refused to comply with the Town Board’s request to remove furnishings, produce and goods from the stalls.
And, he denied claims that persons involved in the clean-up either destroyed or stole items belonging to the vendors.