CLEARWATER – Residents who were anxiously waiting for the Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market to open Nov. 3 will have to wait a little longer.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, Geri Campos Lopez, the city’s director of economic development and housing, told the Clearwater City Council that the complicated paperwork for the three-way partnership of the City of Clearwater, the Pinellas County Health Department and the InterCultural Advocacy Institute has delayed the projected opening until Jan. 12, 2013.
In the meantime, the city bought approximately $20,000 worth of equipment and materials to get the market started. It included 15 pop-up tents and the weight bags to hold them down, 64 folding chairs, 22 rectangular banquet tables, a rolling table storage cart, four GFCI outdoor power strip boxes, an industrial water hose, a hand truck capable of carrying 800 to 1,000 pounds, a cash box, a mobile work box with wheels, four heavy-duty extension cords, 45 reflective cones and a variety of road signs.
The Clearwater City Council unanimously voted on Nov. 1 to declare the items surplus to the city’s needs and donate them to the InterCultural Advocacy Institute with the understanding that if the farmers market fails within the first three years, all serviceable items will be returned to the city. After that, city officials figure, none of the stuff would be worth taking back.
“I’m totally supportive of the whole thing,” Councilman Bill Jonson said of the farmers market. “I’m just struggling with declaring surplus something that we just bought with a grant.”
But City Attorney Pam Akin explained that the city wasn’t being as magnanimous as it sounded because the $20,000 grant was never really intended to be the city’s money. The $20,000 came from the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program, which had “identified a need for access to affordable and locally-grown foods by the Clearwater community, and in particular, the East Gateway and surrounding neighborhoods,” according to the donation agreement.
CPPW agreed to funnel the grant to the city through the county health department with the understanding that the city would use the money to buy farmers market equipment that it would then donate it to the ICAI for use at its farmers market.
“There’s no other way for you to give it to them, and the point was to give the equipment to them,” Akin told Jonson.
The Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market Steering Committee distributed 312 questionnaires (187 in English and 125 in Spanish) to East Gateway residents. The respondents, nearly 60 percent of whom are on food stamps or other government-subsidized food programs, indicated that more than 89 percent of them now buy their fresh produce from supermarkets and only 10.9 percent of them get it from farmers markets. The steering committee decided that opening a farmers market in downtown Clearwater would be a good way to offer residents fresher produce at lower prices than they are now paying.
The market will be located on Cleveland Street, between Missouri and South Lincoln avenues. It will be open on Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. After the first year, the season will run from November through May, although there has been some talk of extending it to October through May in future years.