News and Tribune

March 29, 2014

Committee to weigh future of New Albany Farmers Market

This year's session opens May 10


NEW ALBANY —  A New Albany City Council committee will meet next week to discuss the future of the downtown Farmers Market.

A lengthy debate about whether the city should invest $321,000 to improve the property, or move the market elsewhere ensued during last week’s council meeting.

However, the matter is somewhat out of the council’s hands, even though Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration has shown a willingness to involve the legislative body in deciding the city’s next move.

When the council was preparing the 2014 budget, there was little mention of the $270,000 that was earmarked to build a second structure, add bathrooms and improve accessibility for disabled and senior residents for the market, which is located at the intersection of Market and Bank streets.

“There was not a lot of discussion about it,” said Councilwoman Shirley Baird on Friday.

But when the lowest bid for construction was returned to the city at $321,000, officials, especially some council members, started taking notice.

Councilman John Gonder suggested moving the market inside the downtown parking garage. It would be cheaper than the proposed construction project, and the market would have an abundance of covered area for operations, Gonder said.

But the idea was opposed by many of the speakers that addressed the council last week, several of which are vendors at the market.

Develop New Albany operates the market, and organization member Susan Kaempfer has handled most of the management for the past eight years. She has also stated her opposition to moving the market to the garage.

Baird — who is the council’s liaison on the Develop New Albany board — said she still supports improving the market at its existing location.

“A lot of people have told me they want to keep it where it is,” she said.

The council committee consists of Baird, Gonder and Councilman Scott Blair. Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti has also expressed interest in participating, and the committee is slated to meet on Wednesday.

Baird has also asked David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, to assist the committee.

“We’re looking forward to meeting with them,” Duggins said this week.

The New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety accepted the bids for the project, and could still approve a deal without the council’s blessing. The board consists of three mayoral appointed members.

But there’s a $51,000 gap between what the council allotted for the board to spend on the project and the lowest bid, so the price would have to be cut or more money appropriated.

Duggins said the low bid will be honored by the contractor, Upton Pry, through April 18. But that doesn’t mean the city is moving forward with the expansion of the market, he continued.

“We’re looking at all the alternatives right now,” Duggins said.

Baird backed Develop New Albany and Kaempfer’s management of the farmers market, as she said it has boosted downtown.

“When [Kaempfer] started working with the farmers market eight years ago, there were six vendors. Now, there’s over 60,” Baird said.

The downtown New Albany Farmers Market opens the second Saturday of May, which will be May 10.