Bangor City Council Proposes Annual Fee on Farmers Market

8:45 PM, Feb 19, 2014   |    comments
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BANGOR, Maine (News Center)-- Bangor City Council is considering making the Bangor Farmers Market Association sign a lease and pay an annual fee in order to set up shop Wednesday.

The Bangor Farmer's Market has been a draw to downtown Bangor for the last two years. It has had a balanced give and take relationship with the city, bringing locally grown food to downtown Bangor where there is no large supermarket.  Now as the market goes into its third year, the original two year lease is up. But City Council is thinking about charging the Farmers Market Association an annual payment of twenty five dollars a year once the new three year lease begins. It sounds like a small price to pay, but city councilor Josh Plourde feels differently.

Bangor Council Member Josh Plourde said, "The fact of the matter is that it provides a crucial amenity that we actively courted to come here, and they said yes and they said yes and they took that chance and it's proven well for them. And now after the two year lease, we're finally saying, at least based on the committee recommendation, that it's time to pony up for the space and I don't necessarily think that's appropriate."

The city's Economic Development Department brought up the proposal. The EED charges a fee to other downtown summer events, and the department felt city council shouldn't treat the farmers market any differently. It is up to city council to decide what organizations are charged for use of city space. But the market takes place in a parking lot that is not used on summer Sundays and Plourde said he sees no reason to charge for a space that wouldn't be used otherwise.

"I think it's very important for a community to support local agriculture and the fact that these are- they're small business farmers, they're not making millions of dollars in profit," Plourde said.

This fee idea is new to the farmers.

"It was quite surprising not just for myself but for everybody involved because it sounds like everybody was not expecting this to come up," said Clayton Carter, Chairman of the Bangor Farmers Market Association.

While none the vending farmers expected to pay for the market space in Bangor, many pay at other markets around the state.

"It goes either way. A lot of markets don't have any fee or rental and some do," Carter said.

Farmers don't believe the proposal has as much to do with them as it does a lack of a policy for sponsoring events.

Carter said, "I think that it's more about discussing the precedent in how the city operates."

City council members do not agree with the new proposal. But council member Plourde is hopeful that the council will use Monday's meeting as a chance to discuss a written policy for sponsorship of local events in the future.

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