Wednesday, January 11, 2017
SABCA finally organizes to save Wednesday Farmer's Market, six weeks after County's letter
Posted January 11, 2017 06:41 am - Updated January 11, 2017 06:57 am
By SHELDON GARDNER firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Augustine Beach Civic Association members plan to fight for St. Augustine Beach farmers markets
The St. Augustine Beach Civic Association is trying to save Wednesday farmers markets in St. Augustine Beach, and protect what officials say is a key source of revenue.
The farmers markets, organized by the civic association, take place almost every Wednesday at St. Johns County’s pier parking lot.
St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick won’t recommend renewing the agreement that allows for the markets, according to a December letter. The agreement will expire after July 31 without County Commission action.
Bill Jones, civic association president, told more than 40 people gathered at City Hall for a civic association meeting on Tuesday night — many of them market vendors — that they should contact county commissioners to try and keep the market at the beach.
The farmers markets provide much of the financial support for Music By the Sea, an annual concert series, and officials said Wanchick’s decision and timing has hindered the group’s budgeting and planning.
“We’re now in never-never land with the budget,” said Frank Ward, group treasurer.
Wanchick’s reasons behind not recommending renewal of the agreement include growing tourism and the need for parking in the county.
He cited the fact that the county plans to charge for pier parking to raise revenue, and he cited the need to reduce the amount of subsidy the county’s General Fund provides to the county’s Beach Services Fund.
Jones said closing the market won’t solve the beach’s parking problem or county’s budget issues.
“I find it hard to believe that the revenue they’re going to gain from displacing the market is going to save the County’s General Fund,” Jones said.
The civic association, a nonprofit, doesn’t pay the county to use the pier parking lot for the markets — that’s part of a longstanding county policy about farmers markets, according to Jones. But the civic association pays thousands to the county in rent for the concerts.
Jones said the civic association needs to resolve the future of the markets to move ahead with planning for the concerts. The markets provides a large amount of support for the concerts, officials said.
The Music By the Sea series costs about $42,000 a year, Jones said. Market revenue is needed to cover the difference between grants and other funds and the cost of the concerts, he said.
The association expects to get about a $16,000 grant from the county for the 2017 season, but that is a reimbursement and half has to go toward marketing outside the county, Jones said.
The farmers markets in a normal year typically bring in around $60,000 for the association, Ward said.
The Civic Association sponsors other city events and donates to causes such as the Betty Griffin House, Jones has said.
The association ended 2016 with about $46,000 in the bank, Ward said.
St. Johns County has offered to help the Civic Association work out a lease deal for an alternative county site.
Jones and an audience member raised the possibility of paying the county for using the market if that allows them to stay at the site.
Before the meeting, people expressed their concern about the future of the market, which they said is an important part of the community.
“To me it’s very sad because it’s been a family staple,” said Hester Longstreet, secretary for the Civic Association.
She said it’s not only a meeting place for the community, it’s also a source of income for dozens of vendors who participate.
“I hope the county reconsiders,” Longstreet said.
The St. Augustine Beach farmers market hosts an average of 70 vendors a week, and the market has been open except for holidays and the hurricane for 18 years, according to Jones.
One of the regular vendors is Phil King, a St. Augustine Beach resident who sells his photographs at the St. Augustine Beach market and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.
“There’s a lot of people whose income [will be] impacted if it gets shut down. … There’s got to be an alternative to just shutting it down,” he said.
Nice thing, the Farmers Markets. Seems like the County should be able to work out something.
Maybe Panama Hatties and Salt Life could host it in their lots- one holds the event, the other provides the parking. End it at Noon and clear the lots; maybe some folks will stay for lunch- the Farmer's Market Wednesday Lunch Special.
That's a great idea.
The first step is to understand all the facts.
1) The County is broke and the FREE RIDE IS OVER !
2) The County is going to put parking meters in and we need every quarter to keep up with the cost of running the beach.
3) The Beach Civic association HAS NOT PAID THE ELECTRIC BILL IN 10 YEARS !
4) THE BEACH CIVIC ASSOCIATION REFUSES TO OPEN THE BOOKS !
5) THE MANGEMENT OF BILL JONES AND ROBERT SAMUELS IS POOR ! ............Dump the Poor Mangement! ........... Then approach the County Commissioners and County Administrator !
6) The Concert Series is another example of mismanagement. What are you SPENDING $42,000.00 a YEAR ON ? OPEN THE BOOKS !
7) Where has the Electric bill money gone ? OPEN THE BOOKS !
8) What has the Management done with the collected RENT ? OPEN THE BOOKS !
9) WHY HAS CASH BEEN DEMANDED FOR PAYMENTS ? OPEN THE BOOKS !
10) WILL THE BEACH CIVIC Association AGREE TO A FULL OUTSIDE AUDIT ? OPEN THE BOOKS AND NOT THE COOKED ONE ! We the taxpayers DON'T LIKE those recipes !
Dump the Poor Management ! Then approach the County Officials.
The Farmers Market is a staple to our life style. It supports the community in so many different aspects. The beach should also be an asset that should never be taxed by allowing parking fees. We need to embrace those that come to our beaches not push them away.
Remember Tom, nothing is free ! If everybody pays a little it is best for all the taxpayers !
So Wanchick says that "the county plans to charge for pier parking to raise revenue."
I'm curious to know how the County plans on excluding local senior citizens who fish most days when The St Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier is not buried in so-called "renourished" sand.
The St. Augustine Beach pier simply cannot be encumbered by local residents looking for "free" goodies that enhance the St. johns county residents lifestyles. The tourists deserve to have a completely unencumbered 24/7 use of the pier and it's parking, anything less is unacceptable........
Evidently malfeasance runs totally wild in the "BEACH CIVIC ASSOCIATION" hence the residents and vendors must be punished! Surrender the Farmer's market you, you "free loaders"!