SP Council OK's Lease for Market
The Moore County Farmers' Market will return to downtown Southern Pines for at least another year.
The Southern Pines Town Council agreed earlier this week to sign another yearlong lease with the farmers' market.
The Saturday morning market in the Downtown Park has been wildly popular.
"It was a really nice, successful year," said Robert Reeve, recreation director, "There was a lot of positive feedback."
The market operated in the park every Saturday morning from the third week in April to the last week of September.
The council didn't take a vote on the lease, but there was a consensus to allow the farmers' market to remain at the park.
"It's been a really, really, really, really positive thing for the town," Mayor Mike Haney said.
The town is signing only a one-year lease with the market because it hasn't decided yet if it's going to build a new Town Hall on that property.
The town has lacked meeting space since it demolished the old municipal building on that site in 2006. The council has been meeting in the Douglass Center in West Southern Pines or in the Planning, Inspections and Finance office on Broad Street.
The Police Department, which was also housed in the municipal building, moved into temporary quarters in the old Access Printing building off U.S. 1. The town is building a new police station next to the Fire Department on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The park location has been a green open space since the old building was razed. It is not unusual to drive by and see a couple of sunbathers or a touch football game being played. A group of local residents has been encouraging the council to keep that space green and locate the new Town Hall elsewhere.
Reeve said Monday that if the farmers' market becomes a long-term tenant in the park, the town might want to think about making some improvements. The market has talked about having a violinist play while it is open or hosting cooking demonstrations.
"I think it's a great addition to the downtown area," Councilman Fred Walden said. "I'd like to go so far as to say that if we're not going to build there, we should look at ways to enhance it, for that use there or for other events."
Mayor Pro Tem Chris Smithson said the only complaint he has heard from the public is that the market doesn't stay open late enough. It's open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays in the summer.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said he has also talked to people who come into town for lunch with the intention of checking out the market afterward, only to find all the vendors gone.
The council suggested that the town allow some flexibility for hours in the new lease, so that vendors can stay longer if they want. Representatives from the farmers' market pointed out that the longer vendors stay in the hot sun, the worse it is for the produce. The council asked Reeve to write the lease so that the vendors have flexibility.
The council also agreed that the farmers' market should be able to put up some sort of unobtrusive sign -- such as a sandwich board -- to identify it as being at the park. People drive by it all the time without knowing what is going on there, council member Abigail Dowd said.
In other business, the council heard a presentation from Client First Consulting Group about replacing the town's computer software and hardware.
"This would be a complete overhaul," Parsons said.
According to the consultant, the town is running on a system originally purchased in 1988. Council members laughed when they realized that was the same year the town adopted its land development plan, which has been widely criticized for being outdated.
"Is there anything else that's been sitting around since 1988 that we need to know about?" Smithson asked.
Updating the system could cost up to a $1 million, spread over two or three fiscal years and two different funds. The consultant said that the new system will pay for itself by preventing the town from having to hire two additional employees.
Parsons told the council that now would be the time to stop this if the council didn't want it.
"It's something we have to do sooner or later," Walden said.
The meeting concluded with a long discussion with members of the Appearance Commission. The council has been inviting all of their boards and commissions in to talk about their roles going forward.
The Appearance Commission said that it would like to approve architectural reviews. Currently the council looks at architectural reviews. There's been talk of creating an architecture review board.
"We haven't decided yet what we're doing with architecture review," Smithson said. "We have to figure out how to bring you in without making (the process) even longer. It's tricky."
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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