In one of the most significant developments since the Eastern Market fire of 2007 and the Market’s subsequent renovation, the Department of General Services (DGS) , landlord and manager of the Eastern Market, acknowledged an active Enterprise Fund with a substantial balance of $630,419.87.
For most of the last eleven years various DGS spokespersons have remained opaque about the Enterprise Fund, often maintaining there is a zero balance principally a result of an annual “sweeping” as DGS has been unwilling to fully discuss the disposition of Market revenues.
The Enterprise Fund is the legal repository of all Market revenues under the Eastern Market legislation of 1999.
In late March, DGS representatives assured the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee ( EMCAC) Chair Donna Scheeder that those funds are no longer going to be swept at the end of each fiscal year and would be allocated for Market expenses and operations.
In yet another positive step forward these same DGS representatives stated there will be future consultations on the budget process as is also required under the law.
Scheeder said: “This represents something we have never had before–a recognition that all the money that is in the Fund will not be moved. It will not be spent. It stays in the Fund. “ Scheeder continued: “That is huge.”
Commenting on the seasonal timing, EMCAC member Tom Kuchenburg chipped in: “It is the Easter miracle.”
EMCAC is an advisory group created by the Eastern Market legislation to provide oversight of the Market.
When EMCAC met in the North Hall on March 26 for its regular monthly meeting, Scheeder announced that DGS has agreed to move forward on funding a “strategic plan” for the Eastern Market.
Scheeder quickly announced a special meeting for April 4 to give full consideration of EMCAC input and forward recommendations to DGS before they begin the strategic plan process.
Approximately $75,000 is the initial estimated cost with Vice Chair Chuck Burger suggesting that a thorough analysis might cost up to $200,000.
The discussion then turned to possible stakeholders and as the discussion wrapped up among those included were the Eastern Market and Barracks Row Main Streets, Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA) , ANC6B and residents of the surrounding Hill community.
February revenues for the Market were $62,636.57. North Hall revenue was $18,200.00.
Bill Glasgow of Union Meats reported there was no progress on the lease negotiations. One EMCAC member asked how long Glasgow had been waiting after a recent South Hall merchants meeting with DGS Director Greer Gillis. Glasgow replied sardonically: “Since 1997.”
There were 34 public events at the North Hall in March and two private events.
A special meeting called for April 4 to advance recommendations to DGS about the proposed strategic plan for the Eastern Market began with a discussion of the elements of the strategic plan.
Fortunately, as Chair Scheeder was quick to point out, EMCAC had gone through this exercise in 2016. Forest Hayes, Chief of the Portfolio Division of DGS at that time, had encouraged EMCAC to move on a strategic plan only to inform EMCAC when their deliberations were complete that there was no money in the fiscal year budge, shelving the project.
EMCAC dusted off its two year old product and began to work its way through the various elements. A kickoff meeting with the community will be part of this process.
As EMCAC worked through a draft of its previous deliberations, Scheeder emphasized : “We are not writing the RFP. We are writing about the process. “
Chief among their recommendations were that there be “inclusivity” and that all shareholders in the Eastern Market Special Use Area be consulted, including members of EMCAC who represent the Market itself.
According to Scheeder it is all about community and their involvement: “The community are the owners of the Eastern market. This will work if EMCAC listens to the community.“
Among other elements discussed to be included in EMCAC’s recommendations were that whomever secures the contract for this strategic plan process be completely familiar with the Eastern Market legislation; that any business plan produce an extensive analysis of the buying and demographic characteristics of existing customers; that there be ongoing public engagement through meetings with “consideration given to after-hour availability”; and finally that DGS needs to complete a strategic business plan and funding if needed should be requested through Council member Allen.
DGS Briefing on Financials and Budget
EMCAC was briefed on April 12 by DGS, the focus of which was on promised efforts to produce timely financial information. According to the power point presentation the purpose of the briefing was to “provide a clear view of Eastern Market’s budgeting process and financial situation.”
As of the beginning of FY 2018 the Enterprise Fund held a balance of $630, 419.87. The budgets for FY18 and FY19 show projected revenues of $990,000 and $1,088,000 respectively but no profit in either year as expenditures exactly matched revenue.
EMCAC has been provided with financial information ranging from FY 2016 actuals through the projected budget for FY2019.
The key takeaways from this briefing are that DGS pledged to provide EMCAC with “quarterly financial information and financial reports.” In addition DGS will “take into consideration EMCAC’s input regarding future years budgets in the September-November timeframe. ”
Finally DGS pledged to “prepare a biannual written report of operations for the previous six months including a summary of revenues by source and of expenditures by kind” and provide these to EMCAC.