County Commissioners approve Farmers Market expansion

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:19 AM

Rutherford County Commissioners have approved a measure to expand the current county Farmers Market for the upcoming season.

On a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved a $15,000 budget amendment to expand the hours of the market as well as a $900 amendment to repair and extend the water line at the current location along U.S. 74-Alt. near Isothermal Community College.

The expansion includes adding Saturday to the list of days the market will open.

The Saturday operation could be held in conjunction with the Southern Growers Association which has held a tailgate market at the Tri-City Mall on Saturdays.

It also includes providing funds for website development to continue — on a smaller scale — an online market to sell produce to restaurants. Under the proposal, the market will offer consumer commodity boxes available for purchase online and pick up at the market or, potentially delivered.

"This has been a very cooperative effort to try to make these projects continue to work in a way that it doesn't have a negative impact on our budget," said Carl Classen, Rutherford County manager.

Last season, the Rutherford County Farmers Market moved from its previous location at the Rutherford County Fairgrounds to a county-owned site along U.S. 74-Alt.

Jeff Bradley, with the Cooperative Extension Agency, the market experienced increased popularity after that move.

"I spent a lot of time visiting the Farmers Market and, every time I went down there people were tickled to death," Commission Chairman Julius Owens said. "Places were being used and there has been a lot of good comments from the public."

One commissioner did ask about a more permanent location for the farmers market. Bradley said that a committee has been formed and locations are being looked at. However, because that had not been done, Commissioner Bo Richard said he could not support the budget amendments.

"I would like to have more information and where the building would be located," Richard said.

But, Classen said that county staff wants to have a plan in place, with Commission approval, before moving forward with a new location for the farmers market.

Another budget amendment, tied closely with the farmers market, included grant funding to develop a business plan for a proposed hoop house/sustainable agriculture center. The grant allows the county to complete the program — an initiated by Foothills Connect.

"We want to get a plan to make sure that the project is sustainable," Classen said. "Potentially, there is a tie-in with the Farmers Market because what is grown at the hoop house can be sold at the market."

According to the amendment, the county would spend $3,500 in part-time salaries and benefits, $6,500 in operating supplies and a refrigeration system and, $5,000 for website development, regarding expanding the farmers market.

"The one resounding thing that I heard last year was that vendors wanted more time to sell and it is commendable that this can happen," Owens said.

In other business, commissioners:

• approved the appointments of Jeanette Klutts, Ramond Hall and Pam Hutchins to the Domiciliary Home Advisory Committee;

• tabled an oral report for the 2012 Board of Equalization and Review to March;

• tabled discussion on the Biggerstaff Project to March;

• approved a grant contract between the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Rutherford Soil and Water Conservation District;

• approved the presentation of 2012 Tax Leins and an order to advertise;

• approved a one-year contract with Gould Killian CPA Group, P.A. for the county audit and for the county to issue requests for proposal for a three-year agreement at the conclusion of the one-year extension;

• accepted the Rutherford County Community Child Protection Team/Child Fatality Prevention Team annual report.