Farmers market funds lacking

Gary B. Gray • May 31, 2014 at 9:25 AM

Johnson City does not have the $350,000 budgeted this year for site preparation of the new farmers market — a project set to be bid out in about one week.

Assistant City Manager Bob Wilson told commissioners about the shortfall during a Thursday budget workshop at which both the Public Works and Development Services departments revealed their paired-down financial plans.

The city’s fiscal 2015 spending plan is far from being set, and the money may yet be found for this purpose. But a cursory examination of various city departments has so far revealed a number of unfunded needs — some more dire than others.

“It was one of the things that has been on the ‘cut side,’ ” City Commissioner Jenny Brock said Friday. “I don’t think we have the money right now. We’re going to have to sit down and prioritize.”

That’s exactly what city commissioners have been trying to do over the past few weeks at lengthy budget workshops.

“As a responsible commission, we have to look at ... there are things we have to do, and there are things that are discretionary,” Brock said. “You have to weigh all this with the investments that need to be made.”

The search for balance has placed a few very visible items on that possible cut list, including Legion Street Pool and continued downtown streetscape and beautification improvements.

Construction estimates for the new farmers market on Wilson Avenue just north of Founders Park have ranged from $1.5 million to $2 million. The Johnson City Development Authority plans to take the lead on the project with $1 million available through tax increment financing.

The city had budgeted $350,000 for site preparation, but the property remains untouched following demolition at the site.

Architect Thomas Weems said Friday he is wrapping up plans for the market, which were supposed to go out to bid around the same time as the Blue Plum Festival — June 6-8. He has not received the green light.

“Our task was to try and wrap up the design,” Weems said. “There was no hard date, but we’ve talked about putting it out to bid around the time of Blue Plum.”

Weems said he was unaware that the money for sire preparation was at risk and that he had not talked with anyone regarding potential project delays or setbacks. Weems, who is being paid $35,000 for his services, will be involved in overseeing the project to its completion, though the city is ultimately responsible.

Plans show canopy-covered parking for 60 at the site. The city plans to add 25 spaces for overflow and an additional 50 spaces will be constructed on Commerce Street. The 18,000-square-foot structure will include a number of market stalls and a covered stage.

Follow Gary B. Gray on Twitter at @ggrayjcpress. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp.

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