Fourteen people addressed Indiana Borough council Tuesday, urging approval of a request to move the Indiana County Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays to the new IRMC Park along North Seventh Street.
The request has been referred to the Indiana Borough staff, which is gathering additional information for council. The request will next be discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting March 17, and likely will come up for a council vote April 8.
Organizers of the farmers’ market asked council last month for permission to move the Wednesday afternoon version of the popular market this summer to IRMC Park from its current location along South Eighth Street and the parking lot at the northeast corner of Eighth and Church streets. The Saturday farmers’ market will continue to be held in the S&T Bank parking lot along South Eighth Street.
[FILE PHOTO: Customers select goods at Indiana farmers market, Sept. 25, 2013. Gazette photo]
Established in 2009, the farmers’ market is a venue for local vendors only who sell produce, flowers, baked goods, dairy products, meats and crafts.
Chloe Drew, a community volunteer for the market, told council that vendors were turned away on Wednesdays last summer because there was not enough room for everyone who wanted to participate.
“We’re so fortunate here in Indiana to not only have a market twice a week, but to have it in our downtown,” Drew said.
The request is to use IRMC Park on 19 Wednesdays June 4 through Oct. 8, from 2:30 to 6 p.m., allowing time for set-up before the market opens and removing displays after it closes. North Seventh Street between Philadelphia Street and Nixon Avenue would be closed between those hours.
Those who spoke in support of the request told council the farmers’ market helps make Indiana a more “livable community.”
Others touted the farmers’ market as an economic driver, saying they often remain downtown after the market closes to do some shopping or eat in one of the downtown restaurants.
Tim McQuaide, offering support for the market’s move on behalf of Downtown Indiana Inc., called the farmers’ market “another reason to visit one of the nicest downtowns in western Pennsylvania.”
Steve Wolfe, president and CEO of Indiana Regional Medical Center, sent a letter of support saying the farmers’ market not only promotes togetherness and community enrichment, but also is a source of locally grown healthy food.
And First Ward resident Eric Barker said the summer farmers’ market adds “vibrancy” to the downtown.
Moving the Wednesday market to IRMC Park will “be a win-win-win — a win for the farmers’ market, a win for the borough and a win for the small businesses that line our downtown streets,” he said.
But Richard Wolfe disagreed. Wolfe, owner of Robinson-Lytle Inc. funeral home along North Seventh Street, told council he is not opposed to the farmers’ market but believes he should have the same opportunity to operate his business without inference.
Wolfe said he had just gone through nine months of “interference, property damage and disrespect” while IRMC Park was being built and North Seventh Street was enhanced with new infrastructure, sidewalks, curbs and pavement.
The organizers of the farmers’ market, he said, is another group trying to close off an artery that the public uses to get to his business at a very emotional time in their lives. He asked council that future requests to close North Seventh Street be denied.
Council President Nancy Jones said the borough staff was asked to gather additional information because in fairness to taxpayers council needs to know what it will cost the borough if the market is moved to IRMC Park. Keeping North Seventh Street closed until 6 p.m. will result in some overtime expenses because a street crew employee will have to be called out after normal work hours to take down barricades on the street.
Consideration should also be given to the fact that North Seventh Street will be closed during the evening rush hour on Wednesdays, she said, and the borough staff needs to verify through its own questioning that the owners of nearby businesses favor moving the market into the heart of the downtown business district.