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INDIANA BOROUGH: Farmers' market plan voted down

by on April 09, 2014 11:00 AM

The Indiana County Farmers’ Market will not be moving on Wednesdays this summer to the new IRMC Park along Indiana’s North Seventh Street. And that decision by borough council Tuesday adds to speculation from at least one source that the popular outdoor market may move out of the borough and into White Township.

Established in 2009, the farmers’ market is a venue for local vendors only to sell produce, flowers, baked goods, dairy products, meats and crafts.

After lengthy discussion and three identical split votes, council Tuesday ended an effort that started a few months ago to move the Wednesday market from its current location in the parking lot at the northeast corner of Eighth and Church streets to the new plaza-like setting near Indiana’s main intersection.

During the public comment period at the start of Tuesday’s council meeting there was more input — pro and con — for allowing the market to use IRMC Park from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on 19 Wednesdays June through October. North Seventh Street between Philadelphia Street and Nixon Avenue would have to be closed between those hours if the market was set up in IRMC Park.

Borough resident Tom Miller said the additional congestion and noise from the market might be disrespectful to grieving families and might disrupt funeral services at Robinson-Lytle Inc. funeral home along North Seventh Street.

“I don’t like to see it being jeopardized,” Miller told council. “I believe it deserves extra respect” like churches or the hospital.

Laura Jeffrey, a spokeswoman for Indiana Regional Medical Center, said when the outdoor plaza was conceived, it was originally referred to as “the people place.” The farmers’ market, she said, is not alcohol-driven but rather is a family and community event.

“It’s a good thing … to keep in the borough,” Jeffrey said. “Where we’re at now is possibly losing it not from South Eighth Street but from the borough.”

Jim Resh, a director for the farmers’ market, confirmed this morning that the directors were looking for “viable locations” that would provide growth potential for the market.

Chloe Drew, who was a community volunteer for the market and now also serves as a director, has told council several times that vendors were turned away on Wednesdays last summer because there was not enough room for everyone who wanted to participate. And Tuesday she gave council a list of signatures of farmer-vendors who supported moving the market to IRMC Park.

Businessman Tim McQuaide delivered to council a petition with the signatures of 412 people in favor of moving the market to North Seventh Street.

“Why did you allow development of the park if it’s not going to be used?” McQuaide asked.

Councilman Ross Bricklemyer made a motion to close North Seventh Street between Philadelphia Street and Nixon Avenue to vehicles from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays from May to September, with no mention in the motion of any purpose for the closing.

Councilman Gerald Smith offered an amendment to the motion that would have added the phrase “except for vehicles authorized by the borough,” which might have cleared the way for farmers’ and vendors’ trucks to get into the park to unload their food and wares.

Councilwoman Julie Adcock offered an amendment that would have added the phrase “for the purpose of the farmer’s market” to the end of Bricklemyer’s motion.

The original base motion and both proposed amendments were defeated by identical 7-5 votes.

Opposing all three were Bricklemyer, Nancy Jones, John Petrosky, Tom Thompson, Larry DeChurch, Richard Thorell and John Hartman.

Voting in favor of the original motion and the proposed amendments were Smith, Adcock, Donald Lancaster Peter Broad and Katherine Hood.

Following the meeting, council President Jones said the Indiana Borough Police Department performed a traffic count on North Seventh Street on two Wednesdays in March during the afternoon hours when the street would have to be closed if the farmers’ market was held there. On those two Wednesday afternoons 553 and 621 vehicles used North Seventh Street, Jones said.

“For some of us (on council), that was the turning point … when we saw the impact of the closing” on traffic flows, especially during the late-afternoon rush hours, Jones said.

And she said previously that holding the farmers’ market in IRMC Park would also result in some overtime expenses for the borough because a street crew employee will have to be called out after normal work hours to take down barricades on the street.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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