Councillor proposes a $200 weekly fee
Coun. Shawn Mesheau brought a motion forward that recommended charging the farmers’ market board a weekly fee to help offset the costs for public works staff to close the downtown street every Saturday morning.
Mesheau said he believes the closure of Bridge Street is an unnecessary expense, since the town has other suitable locations for an open-air market that could be made available to the board at no cost – particularly referring to the Bill Johnstone Memorial Park.
“We have infrastructure in this community that exists that can service this group,” said Mesheau.
The town spends about $400 per week from May to October for the Bridge Street closure, with an approximate total cost of $10,000 per year. Mesheau was proposing the board pay a $200 weekly fee.
But Coun. Margaret Tusz-King argued that the money the town spends on the street closure comes back to the town “a thousand fold” in economic spinoffs.
“I think we need to start recognizing the economic value of the market,” said Tusz-King.
She also pointed out it would be “disingenuous to come up with a fee this late in the game,” after already having approved the street closure for the coming season.
Coun. Bill Evans agreed with his fellow councillor.
“It’s too late, we’ve already made a deal with them. I think this would be bargaining in bad faith.”
Evans said the question of whether to charge them for the service is a legitimate discussion but one that should be suggested prior to next year’s market and not after having already approved the street closure for 2015.
Coun. Ron Corbett also said he sees this move as “an effort too far too late.”
Deputy Mayor Joyce O’Neil and Coun. Bruce Phinney were the only two members of council to side with Mesheau, making it a 5-3 vote against the motion.
Phinney said the market may be an economic booster to “a few but not all” and said he believes the street closure is an inconvenience for the majority of taxpayers of this town. He said the farmers’ market board has not been making any effort to find a new home and should be charged for use of the public works staff.
“We’re not being fiscally responsible as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
O’Neil agreed the added cost is a financial drain on the town and is adamant the market should be moved to the park.
“This is the place for the market to be and if we can start it this summer, then so be it.”
Coun. Ron Aiken argued, however, that relocating the market to the park may have an impact on the downtown Bridge Street businesses that currently see an influx on Saturday mornings during the weekly market.
“The economic activity generated by this event really spills over to the other businesses in town,” said Aiken.