A proposal to allow the continued operation of the Attleboro Farmers Market at the 74 North Main Street parking lot while satisfying the safety and parking concerns of trustees for the adjacent public library got through a City Council subcommittee on Tuesday. But the plan could fall apart because market organizers say they cannot afford the requirement to hire at least one police officer.
Market organizers would have to pay $160 to hire an officer for a four-hour shift. The proposal calls for a five-hour market (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) on Saturdays from June 2 to Sept. 2 and a four-hour market (8 a.m. to 12 p.m.) through Oct. 27. Since officers are hired in four-hour blocks, the extra hour would bump the cost to $320. Market co-organizer Heather Porreca said on Wednesday she supports a four-hour market for the entire year, but even with that it would cost too much money to hire an officer.
"We would have to consult our board if the police requirement stays [when the full council votes on the proposal], but it would be very difficult for us to afford that," Porreca said.
She said the market costs $3,850 per year to operate and brings in $4,200. There is no room in the budget for an officer. Vendors pay $10 to be part of the market. She said raising that fee would cause vendors to choose other options.
Although Porreca said it was not a deal breaker, she said she was also bothered by parking restrictions placed on the market. This includes market patrons not being allowed to park in the lot while the library is open (it is closed on Saturdays in the summer, open in the fall) and that organizers post a sign stating "Attleboro Library parking only—violators will be towed."
She said, "I have a huge concern because it’s a municipal lot. How do you enforce that?"
The proposal was put together following last week's meeting of the council subcommittee chaired by Jay DiLisio and featuring Mark Cooper and Jeremy Denlea. Library trustees and market organizers also attended the session.
Other features of the plan include a 30-vendor limit, requirement that the vendor booths be arranged in an L-shape in the fall and that the market not take place on the September date when the Friends of the Attleboro Public Library holds its book sale fundraiser.
DiLisio and Cooper voted for the proposal. Denlea voted against it. He called the proposal a "good deal" during the meeting, but wrote in an email to Attleboro-Seekonk Patch on Wednesday that he would have preferred the subcommittee supported his amendment that stated all parties understand the market cannot exist on the site after this year.
"The library parking lot is certainly an awkward venue," Denlea wrote. "I am confident that the Farmers Market would make a wonderful staple in the City Hall Municipal Parking Lot. This location is just a few blocks from the library parking lot; however, it has substantially more room for the Farmers Market, more room for parking and is on the main bus route in Attleboro. Additionally, there would be far fewer public safety concerns."
Porreca said the City Hall location is not good for various reasons, including that it has fewer nearby parking options than the library lot does.
Councilor Cooper voted against Denlea's amendment because he would want a study done after this year's market concludes to determine whether it could continue at the current location.
"I think we may … find we can co-exist and it works," Cooper said.
Linda Binns, acting chair of the Library Board of Trustees, said after Tuesday's meeting that she favored the proposal.
"Safety had been a problem," she said. "This is much more workable."
The full council is expected to vote on the proposal on Tuesday.