Town, Farmers’ Market growing better relationship?

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Sometimes, a plant fails to reach its fullest potential because it may be lacking some vital ingredients.

Bridgton’s Farmers’ Market has been a success for vendors looking for an outlet to peddle their wares and shoppers seeking high-quality vegetables and other food items.

Selectmen, however, say the picture isn’t totally rosy. There have been complaints about parking, as well as whether some Bridgton farmers have been excluded from the market by the existing Association overseeing the operation.

Like juried artisan fairs in the area, the Association has a “vetting process” to decide whether to allow vendors into the market, thus assuring “high quality” when it comes to produce and products to be sold, and a level of “consistency” shoppers can expect when they visit the market, said Brenna Mae Thomas-Googins of Patch Farm and spokeswoman for the Farmers’ Market.

Selectman Bob McHatton pointed out that he does not support the Farmers’ Market Association’s bylaws, but also strongly noted that his motivation to take the lead on developing rules and regulations for the market is solely-based on keeping the town’s best interest in the forefront, since the market is using town-owned property. McHatton added he has no “personal vendetta” against the Farmers’ Market.

To get a better handle on the market, McHatton and town staff drafted a proposed “Rules and Regulations” regarding Bridgton Outdoor Market.

That draft was discussed Tuesday night between selectmen and Farmers’ Market spokeswoman Brenna Mae Thomas-Googins, as well as vendor Cathy Banks of Denmark.

Key topics discussed included:

  • Location — The Market utilizes the area surrounding the Bridgton Community Center on Depot Street and the green space between the parking lot and the sidewalk.

The area is divided into three distinct sections. Section A is the green area between the crossing sidewalk and entrance to the parking lot facing the Magic Lantern and encompasses 10-foot wide spaces. Section B is the green between the crossing sidewalk and entrance to the parking lot facing the Bridgton Community Center and encompasses nine 10-foot wide spaces. And Section C is the green space between the Bridgton Community Center and Community Gardens and encompasses nine 10-foot wide spaces.

McHatton said four or six spaces would be reserved for Bridgton farmers or artisans. If individuals are from Bridgton and are members of the Bridgton Farmers’ Market Association, they can be counted as part of the four or six.

One person in the audience questioned “which Bridgton farmers” had been excluded? There was no response.

The market, under the proposed rules and regulations, would be open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting the first Saturday in May to the last Saturday in October.

  • The proposal addresses use of canopies and tents, as well as cleanup of the facility and fees charged if the property is left unkept.
  • A big point of discussion was insurance coverage. Thomas-Googins pointed out that vendors carry coverage, while the Farmers’ Market also has “umbrella” coverage.

As part of the application process to rent space at the market, vendors will supply proof of coverage.

After length discussion, Town Manager Bob Peabody suggested that a flat rate of $25 per vendor be charged for the upcoming season, and adjustments can be made after an end-of-the-season evaluation.

At the moment, the Market has 17 vendors, but also utilizes space for EBT processing, live music (not amplified) and a third tent for information. Based on a couple of “maps” plotting out spaces available at the market site, the apparent maximum is 25.

Selectman Bernie King questioned whether the Association should adjust their bylaws in regards to where vendors come from. At the moment, it is within a 35-mile radius. King suggested possibly narrowing it to 20 miles, thus encompassing the Lake Region.

  • Another question was whether the town would assume oversight of the Farmers’ Market or have the Association continue to serve in that capacity.

Several responses on the issue was that town officials have “more important matters to tend to” than to take on the market, while individuals like Thomas-Googins have greater expertise in this area since they have attended conferences and seen how other successful markets operate.

  • Parking was the issue that triggered deeper conversation regarding the market. Under the set of rules and regulations, vendors and artisans would need to unload their items and then park their vehicles off-site, possibly down near the old Bridgton Memorial School. Selectmen did make a concession, allowing those vendors and artisans with handicaps to keep their vehicles nearby.

Thomas-Googins suggested the exception also be granted to those vendors and artisans who may be bringing infants to their sites. They might require a place to “feed” and “change” their child.

Both groups — selectmen and the Farmers’ Market Association — each want the same thing — to see the venture succeed and reach its highest potential. How to get there is a matter of better communication, some compromise and by setting some clear rules and regulations for all to follow.

Tuesday, the two sides seemed to move closer to finding the right ingredients to really grow the relationship.

More work is coming.

In other business:

Bad image? The “embarrassment” of the public rejection of a candidate for the Community Development Director job still lingers.

During public comment on non-agenda items, Deb Brusini and others voiced displeasure with how events unfolded at the April 11 meeting when Theresa Oleksiw was turned down as the new director by a 3–2 vote.

Brusini wondered whether the selection process could be tweaked in some way — possibly using a straw poll — to find out whether a nominee is acceptable before asking the person to attend a meeting and face a public vote.

Peabody had a choice between two candidates, and selected Oleksiw (based on her extensive planning background — The News outlined that experience citing previous positions held as listed on her resume) as his nominee.

Candidates are warned ahead of time that their nomination could be rejected.

Phyllis Roth was “upset” after watching the video of the meeting and vote.

“I don’t think Mr. Peabody would hire someone who couldn’t do the job,” she said.

Ursula Flaherty added, “This was upsetting to see. It was unprofessional that way it was done. We need to do better.”

The question is how will the “no” vote affect the town’s image and ability to lure top candidates, since people in the planning circles do talk.

The new search for a Community Development Director has started. The position is being advertised with a deadline to submit an application of Friday, May 12, at 4 p.m. Information about the position is on the town’s website (www.bridgtonmaine.org).

Town Manager Bob Peabody noted that a “handful” of applications have been received, thus far.

Service appreciated. In her Deputy Town Manager report, Georgiann Fleck recognized the service of Phyllis Roth, who has chosen not to seek reelection as a planning board alternate.

Ms. Roth was elected in 2014 as a write-in. Over the years, she also served on various committees, “offering her expertise and knowledge,” Fleck said.

Ms. Roth’s last meeting will be May 2.

Projects on the table. Two projects will be before the planning board at its May 2 meeting.

One proposal is for a 55-lot adult community subdivision off Route 117 near the Denmark town line. The property is Map 4, Lot 15, owned by Ira Sochet. A public information meeting was held last year as the developer was preparing to submit plans to state regulatory agencies for review. Now, the plan comes to Bridgton planners.

The second project is for a 4,300 square foot mixed use building located at 175 Portland Road (Map 9, Lot 64-3), owned by JSM Property LLC.

Place to take a break. Spyro Hronarakis and Dan Edwards will soon turn the old Wizard of Paws storefront on Main Street, adjacent to the Tai restaurant, into Breakroom 248.

The new business will include pool tables and arcade games, as well as a small kitchen to provide some food items. At this time, Breakroom 248 will be open from 4 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. All ages are welcome from opening to 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., Breakroom 248 will be open for those 21 years of age and older, since the establishment will serve alcohol.

Selectmen approved victualer’s and liquor licenses by a 5–0 vote.

Street names approved. Selectmen approved proposed street names —Amethyst Street and Topaz Street — for Map 4, Lot 15, owned by Ira Sochet Revocable Trust.

Quit claim deeds. Payments were accepted and quit claim deeds were approved to Kevin Thurston (Sweden Road, $3,541.34), Eric O’Connell (Map 13, Lot 37-3, $994.85) and Norman Huntress (School Street, $3,200).

How would you rate yourself? If your boss asked you to rate yourself in regards to your job performance, how would you score yourself? All 5s? Somewhere in the middle?

As selectmen made a few revisions to a new town manager’s performance evaluation form, Bob Peabody told his bosses that this was the first time as a town manager that he would be faced with a self-evaluation.

“What if I gave myself all 5s?” Peabody asked.

Selectman King responded, “You’d have to explain it.”

Jokingly, Peabody wondered if he scored himself with 4s — not 5s — if that would likely fly with selectmen?

A “5” is one’s performance consistently exceeds expectations.

A “4” is one exceeds expectations.

A “3” is one meets expectations.

A “2” is one needs improvements.

A “1” is unacceptable performance.

Topics include personal attributes, skills and abilities, responsibilities, relationship with the board and overall performance throughout the year (each of these areas have subquestions). The final section is goals and objectives the manager accomplished during the evaluation period (areas of strength and areas needing improvement).

Selectman King initially wondered whether the policy should be open-ended in relation to when the board conducts the evaluation, rather than be specific (calling for an evaluation in May).

Selectman Bear Zaidman felt the reason May is used rather than another month (maybe tied to when the manager was hired) is that it allows the board that worked with the manager for that year to evaluate his/her performance. If the evaluation is pushed past May, a newly-elected selectman would be asked to evaluate without having worked with the manager for an extended period.

Selectmen decided to keep May as the target time.

Working on Easter? After a discussion last year about whether to keep the transfer station open or closed on Easter, Selectman Bob McHatton thought the municipal facility would be gated up.

Instead, the transfer station was open for business.

Peabody noted that under the union contract, Easter is not recognized as a paid holiday. While Selectman Bob Murphy wondered if it was worth keeping the facility open for a small number of users, Deputy Town Manager Georgiann Fleck reported that Transfer Station Manager Robert Fitzcharles estimated “a couple of hundred” people did make stops there. On average, 500 people dispose of waste.

What to do about the signs? What will be the town’s next step regarding the new directional signs? Peabody said photos of the signs and their apparent quick deterioration will be sent to the town’s attorney for review and the next steps to take with the vendor will be considered.

Next meeting. The next board of selectmen’s meeting is set for Tuesday, May 9.

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