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County OKs funds for farmers market

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$3,000 will go to upgrade market

By Chris Sardelli

After a surge of interest in the newly reorganized farmer’s market, the county has given the organization additional funding.
County Council is providing an additional $3,000 for the farmers market. The money will be used to buy new furniture and for various renovations at the market.
Councilman Jack Estridge said this is the time to address the needs of the vendors and the community.
“Over the years, they’ve (the farmer’s market commission) used very little of their budget,” Estridge said. “Some things have been neglected or not kept up, and I’ve heard reports that things need to be upgraded. I don’t see anything wrong with allowing them more money and providing more for their budget.”
Since the commission was reorganized with mostly new members, there have been larger crowds at the market, located near the sheriff’s department. The farmers market operates Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The farmers market commission oversees the operation and maintenance of the market.
County Administrator Steve Willis said the farmers market commission’s annual budget is $3,100, with more than half of that dedicated to utility bills. About $1,000 is allocated for advertising, which leaves $200 for supplies. Commission member Robert Steele asked council for more funding for supplies and renovations.
Willis said one of the commission’s first priorities is to install new tables at the market, which would cost about $1,000.
“They are also interested in, during the offseason, repainting everything there and maybe getting some cooling fans, some trash cans,” Willis said.
The work is expected to cost about $3,000.
Both Councilman Larry Honeycutt and Councilwoman Kathy Sistare expressed support for giving the commission more money at council’s Oct. 26 meeting. Honeycutt met with the new commission members over the summer to discuss ideas for improving the market, including adding more handicapped parking, welcome banners, benches in the aisles and air conditioning for the market’s back room.
“We’ve got a commission who wants to do it right,” Honeycutt said.
Sistare said it’s important to support a group that wants to improve its services.
“This group is really gung-ho to get this market going,” she said.
The farmers market commission has been in a state of transition since four members were removed and replaced this summer. County Council removed the four members after complaints surfaced from buyers and sellers about difficulties with operating conditions. There were also complaints lodged that some vendors were being favored by the commission over others.

Contact reporter  Chris Sardelli  at (803) 416-8416