Seven years ago, the city was supposed to provide West Side Market vendors with new display them as part of a major renovation. But soon after they arrived, vendors discovered problems with drainage and overheating. They almost immediately started to rust.
So the city sued the architect and the scabs who surely made them. Meanwhile, a third of the merchants were left using units more than 50 years old, while the rest struggled with the faulty new ones.
Amazingly, the city won its suit — and enough to buy new cases. So it recently spent $2.7 million on new ones. But as Cleveland officials are prone to doing, they forgot to consult the people who would actually be using them.
It turns out the new cases are too high and wide to easily serve customers. More important, they’re not built to hold the ice needed to chill meat or fish – a small problem, since it’s a damned meat market.
“It’s bullshit,” says Lucille Walker, head of the vendors’ organization. “We asked them not to accept any bids until we went and looked at the case.”
Unfortunately, accepting the substandard is a closely held city tradition. At a recent meeting, the first thing out of the city architect’s mouth was, “Get used to it. This is the case you’re getting,” says Walker.
Kurt Wiebusch, the city’s commissioner of architecture, isn’t eager to tell his side of the story, so he pawned off Punch on the mayor’s communications office.
Spokeswoman Maureen Harper admits that the city only got one bid for the project (presumably from a large campaign donor). But she says vendors were involved in meetings early last year —they just weren’t consulted on the final decision, when it mattered most.
That’s gotta count for something, doesn’t it? -- Lisa Rab