Falmouth Board of Selectmen Monday night, April 14, approved charging the Falmouth Farmers Market $300 to operate this season at Peg Noonan Park on Main Street. The debate on the special event permit lasted over an hour and split the selectmen’s vote.
The board turned down two motions, one to charge $500 and one to charge $100, prior to approving the compromise of $300, offered by chairman Brent V.W. Putman. Selectmen Rebecca Moffitt and Kevin E. Murphy voted against the compromise. Originally, the board asked for $2,300 from the market.
“We need to be fair and consistent when applying this permit fee to all groups. We’re opening up Pandora’s box by waiving or reducing the fee,” Mr. Murphy said.
The town charges a fee of $100 per day to groups using public parcels, an increase made a few years ago by the selectmen. Falmouth Farmers Market representatives approached the board two weeks ago, asking for a waiver based on their $8,000 in labor and supplies the group donated to maintaining the park. The market was maintaining the park grounds for the past three years per an agreement with the Falmouth Department of Public Works.
Katherine A. Mahoney, the market’s manager, handed out to the board Monday night an itemized bill and a profit and loss statement, indicating that their work done last year—aerating, seeding, weeding, fertilizing, et cetera—more than covered last year’s and this year’s fee.
Mr. Putnam defended the group, stating that they had banked enough goodwill in the form of in-kind labor to qualify for a waiver.
“I think it’s important to mention that the farmers market donated 3,500 pounds of produce last year to the Falmouth Service Center,” he said.
“They help the neediest town residents and that qualifies them for a waiver under our policy,” he said.
The market also accepts the nutritional assistance cards SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
The park maintenance agreement between the market and DPW will not continue into this season. The DPW began last week a major facelift with new landscaping, planting of trees, a new stone-paved path, and construction of a new performance stage with all new electrical wiring.
After this renovation, we will be devoting more time to the park to ensure it remains beautiful,” Department of Public Works Parks superintendent Edwin P. (Rocky) Gomes said. He added the market members have been “very good” to the DPW the last few years.
“There’s no doubt they have given a lot of service to the park. But going forward, their services won’t be necessary. Going forward, we will need to charge them something,” said selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn. She suggested charging $500.
As the discussion continued, residents spoke out in support of the market.
“These folks are busting themselves for the benefit of the community. Most of them work for free. This isn’t about how the town looks, or how much to charge them. It’s about people helping people to eat well,” Basia Goszcynska of Sippewissett Road said.