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February 20, 2014

New Albany City Council questions farmers market expansion

Vote on funding for new police cars again tabled

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany City Council budgeted $275,000 for improvements to the downtown Farmers Market this year, but additional funds will likely be needed to complete the project as planned.

Councilwoman Shirley Baird said she may request an additional appropriation of up to $75,000 to help foot the expansion, which is designed to feature the construction of a second structure for the market with a bathroom and storage area.

Bids accepted by the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety Tuesday ranged from $321,000 to $389,000 for the base work for the project. However, there are additional features that could be added that would increase the cost of the expansion.

“There’s just a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Baird, who is the council representative on the Develop New Albany board.

Develop New Albany operates the market, which is located at the corner of Bank and Market streets, but the property is owned by the city.

The suggestion that more money will be needed for the project caused some council members to question the improvements, as well as the management of the market.

“That seems terribly excessive,” Councilman John Gonder said of the estimated cost for the expansion.

The market is not being managed to its “full extent” and perhaps a separate entity should be formed to help operate the market along with Develop New Albany, Councilman Dan Coffey said.

The city is putting up a lot of money and has a responsibility to ensure its investment is being handled properly, he continued.

“I want to see what return we’re getting for our dollar,” Coffey said.

He added that downtown business owners should be more involved in the design process for the market.

Organizers have claimed the market — which is open from mid-May through early October —  garners more than 18,000 visits a season.

David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, said those visitors frequent downtown businesses and support New Albany’s economy.

He acknowledged the improvements planned for the market aren’t cheap, but added the facility is important.

“It’s a highly successful [feature] we have for downtown,” Duggins said.

The board of works may approve a contract for the improvements as early as Tuesday. Baird didn’t set an exact date as to when she will request the additional appropriation for the project.

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