City delays move of farmers#8217; market

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

FRANKLIN—Concerns from farmers and citizens prompted the City Council on Monday to table the awarding of a construction bid for a new downtown farmers’ market.

The new facility, proposed to be built on a lot adjacent to Johnson’s Funeral Home on Main Street, is part of the Downtown Flood Recovery Master Plan created after Hurricane Floyd.

The Camp Foundations have awarded the city a grant of $75,000 for the project, which would replace the current farmers’ market on Armory Drive.

Farmer William “Winky” Howell and his wife, Patricia, presented council members with a petition signed by 125 people who want the market to stay where it is. The Howells said they have “more petitions to be signed.”

They cited people who walk to the current site and their clientele’s familiarity with the current location as reasons to stay put.

Patricia said, “About 15 years ago, a Farmer’s Market was tried in the (public safety building) parking lot across from Fred’s, and (vendors) saw a great decrease in income.

“That’s why it moved back to its current location.”

She stated that this is her husband’s livelihood.

Dr. Robert T. Edwards, who spoke to the council during Citizens Time and again when the market was discussed, said the vendors he talked to said they would quit setting up at the local market and go elsewhere.

He recommended listening to the people “every once in awhile.”

Edwards added, “If you do move it downtown, I hope you’ve got a pocket full of contracts to fill it.”

Jack Norvell, president of the Downtown Franklin Association, noted that the new facility would provide shelter from the weather, and serve as a meeting place.

He said the DFA is not beyond talking about the issue, but just wished everyone would join together to bring the downtown back.

Community Development Director Donald Goodwin presented four bids that were received on the project, the lowest coming in at $75,300. The bid prices are good for 60 days.

Dan Howe, executive director, spoke in favor of the new facility, saying it would bring more people to the downtown area, and that the DFA board had studied other localities with Farmer’s Markets, and most were located in downtowns.

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard asked Finance Director Andy Rose to “refresh her memory” about a grant for a structure that was supposed to be put up for the farmers at the Armory.

He said that even before the flood, money was given to put up a shelter there, but the project never came to fruition. The Foundation’s allowed the money to be used later for Atkinson Park.

In addition, he said, “The present day Farmer’s Market is not on city property, and there was some concern as to whether we could even put a structure on that site now.”

Council members expressed concern that construction plans were not accompanied by a plan of how to manage and market the facility.

Councilman Benny Burgess said, “I wonder if we have the cart before the horse here.”

Howe said they hope to manage it through farmers, and by the time the building is complete, there would be plenty of time to get everything organized.

Michael Davis of Chaucer Court suggested filling vacancies downtown before erecting new buildings, while resident Greg McLemore of Madison Street reminded the new council members that they had wanted to make Franklin a more business-friendly community.

He cited Barrett’s Landing and the boat landing as examples of projects brought to downtown that haven’t proven to bring more people to the area, and said that businesses that already exist and the farmers who’ve built their clientele should have foremost consideration in the matter.

Sibyl Beale was concerned about how parking arrangements would affect the adjacent funeral home when they have services in progress.

Howe was asked to bring back in two weeks a formal proposal that includes information about how the facility will be managed and policed. Within 30 days, Howe said he should be able to contact more vendors to learn their feelings regarding the issue.

Presiding in Mayor Jim Councill’s absence, Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson, vice president and co-owner of Johnson’s Funeral Home, abstained from participation in the discussion. Councilman Barry Cheatham of Ward 1 led that portion of the meeting.