Budgetary back alley to the Farmers Market? Let’s face the music and dance.


In 2011, with the third Doug England term lurching toward an unceremonious and largely moribund conclusion, it became imperative to expand the Farmers Market on the corner of Bank and Market. Amid discussion of “tiffing” the Farmers Market buildout to the tune of $400,000 (not a misprint), city council eventually uncoupled the Farmers Market proposal from the emerging Bicentennial Park boondoggle, and there it seemed to rest.

In May, 2011, Bluegill nailed it.

Despite being subjected to the usual “slap our name on it” fight for credit, the Farmers’ Market has indeed been successful and does serve important economic and social functions in the community. The importance of those functions, however, is precisely the reason the market should not be used as the centerpiece of some politicized, unexplained financial scheme.

Now it’s 2013. Last week, while at the Board of Public Works meeting, it was revealed that $275,000 toward the Farmers Market work now appears in the 2014 council budget. At-large council member Shirley Baird and city suburban economic development director David Duggins delightfully reprised Astaire and Rogers as Public Works was informed that the usual architectural design suspects would resume work, and the expansion would be finished in time for the market’s 2014 opening.

As for how the unmarked bills were earmarked for expenditure, the Green Mouse recently overheard CM Baird commenting that she’d at long last devised a way to evade scrutiny from the council upon which she serves. She may have been joking … or we may now see why she says hardly anything during the public portion of her job.

Among the questions that might be asked had this process occurred in light of day are many we’ve asked previously, about this and other projects.

  • Really? As much as $400K? (See postscript below for a useful analogy)
  • Is a city-owned corner lot in the revitalizing downtown the best place for the Farmers Market, when the space potentially might be of higher value for infill?
  • Might the Farmers Market, itself as infill, be more appropriate to other plots nearby, ones in need of a purpose, and as part of a comprehensive economic development plan for downtown — you know, the one that doesn’t exist?
  • Why must the usual architectural and construction suspects always be used for such matters, seemingly every single time?
  • Why must backroom negotiations result in a backdoor fait accompli — seemingly every single time?

Viewed as a payback to those who’ve worked to improve the Farmers Market, and to Develop New Albany to claim institutional credit, perhaps all of this makes political sense. And yet, local independent businesses await their payback for millions invested in downtown … and $400K represents the city’s tithe against federal funds to achieve (another lamentably over-priced) project: Two-way street conversions and accompanying street grid reforms.

Quality of life? Does anyone really know what time it is, or what QOL really means?

Mrs. Baird?

Postscript: From a frequent reader.

What’s the cost of the proposed farmer’s market addition per square foot?

It is sobering to realize the recent complete renovation of Kensington Palace for Prince William and Kate was accomplished for £1,000,000.

That total includes £600,000 spent on internal works including complete replacement of plumbing and boilers, re-wiring and removal of asbestos. A further £400,000 was spent on replacing much of the badly-damaged slate, tiles and lead roof over the four-story apartment.

Meanwhile, exactly 1/4 of that amount is required to pop up a few poles, a roof and a brick veneered bathroom on land the City already owns?

Based on today’s conversion rate, the £1,000,000 spent on Kensington Palace equals US $ 1,605,399.28.

The $400,000 sought to enlarge the Farmer’s Market is 24.9% of the equivalent value of the one million pounds British citizens spent to fully renovate the infrastructure of 21 rooms on four floors in a manner literally fit for a (future) king.