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Straw market to open by Christmas

The downtown straw market is expected to open in time for Christmas, according to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

“We’ve just appointed the new Straw Market AuthorityBoard.They will receive their letters of appointment toda y(Friday),” Ingraham told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of St.Bede’s Catholic School’s Flag Day Ceremony.

“Hubert Chipman, a chartered accountant, is going to be the chairman of the board. We expect the straw market to be open before Christmas of this year and they will be making an announcement about the assignment of stalls and the installation of the landscape in the front, the fountain that’s to be connected etc, etc.

“But we expect it to be open before Christmas.”

The Straw Market Authority Bill and the accompanying regulations were passed in Parliament last month.

Under the new regulations, the government is the legal owner of every stall in the market and will license stalls to vendors under the terms set.

Earlier this year, the government announced that the vendors will have to bring their business licenses and National Insurance Board payments up to date before they can be assigned a spot in the new market.

However, Ingraham said the government is only concerned with NIB payments for the year 2011. Some vendors failed to pay contributions for more than a decade.

“Those who owe for years before, that’s their and National Insurance business. National Insurance sat down and allowed them to do it for all of those years…So I’m not getting in that. That’s not my business,” he said.

“My business is if you are going to go into the market you[have to]be current with National Insurance and you have to pay for this year. Obviously, it is in their benefit so their benefits can be calculated for other years.

“But a condition of moving in the market is to pay contributions for this year and continue to pay.”

Vendors had been working under a tent on Bay Street since the old market was destroyed by fire on September 4, 2001.

The tent was severely damaged recently by Hurricane Irene and the government deemed it unsafe to work under. As a result, straw vendors have been operating from Prince George Wharf.

Ingraham said as soon as the straw market is opened, the tent will be demolished and work will commence on the beautification of that area.

That work will coincide with other beautification efforts in the downtown area.

Ingraham said all of the sidewalks will be refurbished and one of the buildings in Rawson Square will be demolished to offer residents and tourists a clear view of the harbor and the House of Assembly. Ingraham said Bay Street will also be paved.

The Straw Market Authority Boardwill oversee the day-to-day operation of the market.

General duties of the board include electricity and water works, plumbing, general maintenance and security.

Under the new laws, vendors are expected to pay$5 per day for the next two years, after which a change to the cost structure will be considered.

More than$12 million has been spent on the market so far, and the government is providing $750,000 as “seed money” to fund the start-up operations.

Ingraham estimated the new site will house up to 500 merchants. There are just over 460 vendors at the temporarily site adjacent to the Pompey Museum.

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