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Fair Board to reconsider ending Tel Phil's contract

Move comes after a 7-2 vote that was influenced by some board members, swap meet vendors.

October 27, 2011|By Joseph Serna

COSTA MESA — The Orange County Fair Board on Thursday delayed its plans to seek a new operator for the fairgrounds' weekend swap meet

The board's 7-2 vote — influenced by the urging of dozens of swap meet vendors — calls for a reconsideration of last month's decision to cut the contract with Tel Phil Enterprises, operator of the swap meet for 42 years.

The board plans to meet with Tel Phil President Jeff Teller within a month and discuss possible long-term solutions to the event's woes.

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In the meantime, the swap meet — officially known as the Orange County Market Place — will remain open on weekends.

Though revenue has been up this year nearly 6%, according to Teller, long-term trends show the event's revenue has markedly decreased during the past 10 years.

The ousting of Tel Phil stipulated that the company would run the Market Place for the next 18 months, during which time the board planned on looking for other companies to take over operations.

It took the urging of some Fair Board members and dozens of vendors to convince enough of the Fair Board to reopen the issue.

Business owners had been complaining that the board wasn't doing enough to remind the public that the event is still open, and accused the members of kicking out Teller for political or personal reasons.

The Fair Board's relationship with Teller had been characterized as "broken" by board member David Ellis.

Also, in a 5-3 vote, with Ellis abstaining, the board approved signing a five-year contract with the OC Marathon, giving it exclusive rights to the fairgrounds parking lot one weekend a year.

The contract with the OC Marathon guarantees the fair $100,000 annually in revenue, with additional money coming from other amenities at the marathon.

OC Marathon chairman Scott Baugh, also head of Orange County's GOP, said a five-year contract was necessary for event planning and that the Fair Board could expect more money above and beyond the $100,000 minimum.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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