The topic of whether a farmers market benefits a community was recently debated among Washougal City Council members.
In the end, they approved a resolution created by councilman Paul Greenlee 6 to 1, stating there is substantial public benefit for the city, in having a private farmers market in downtown Washougal.
Councilman Dave Shoemaker abstained from voting on the resolution during the June 21 meeting, after saying he did not think the local population is large enough to make a farmers market economically viable.
“I applaud the nonprofit involvement,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to work. It could go in with a bang and go out with a whimper shortly thereafter.”
Councilman Michael Delavar recommended the resolution be tabled for last night’s workshop, but Greenlee had hoped to have it approved during a meeting prior to the market’s opening day Saturday. The council does not vote during workshops.
Councilman Jon Russell said he wanted to support it, but he recommended the issue be tabled for discussion during a workshop and then voted on during a special meeting. Greenlee said the notice requirements for a special meeting could be expensive.
Councilman Rod Morris was in favor of the farmers market resolution.
“It sends a message that the city supports it, with no financial obligation,” he said.
Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel said she supports “grass roots organizations” and the benefits they supply, such as fresh fruit.
“It’s the nonprofit’s responsibility,” she said. “The city’s risk is very low.”
Councilwoman Molly Coston applauded the open communication of the Two Rivers Community Group — a 501(c)3 nonprofit association, which is organizing this year’s farmers market.
The motion to table the resolution was defeated 4 to 3, with Morris, Greenlee, McDaniel and Coston voting to move forward on the measure that evening.
During the lengthy discussion about the farmers market resolution, Russell explained to the public in attendance, “there’s a lot of history here. It’s more than just a couple of sentences.”
Greenlee said, based on what he has heard from the state auditor’s office, “any municipal effort without [demonstration of] public benefit would be in trouble.”
That applies to community events and festivals, he added.
Barbara Curry, a Washougal woman who has been blind since birth, said the farmers market definitely provides a public benefit.
“I can walk to this,” she told council. “It is more convenient than Vancouver or Camas. I save gas and walk there or ride a bike.”
Mayor Sean Guard’s wife, Ann, applauded the council’s debate on the issue and encouraged everyone at the meeting to “show up and buy stuff” at the farmers market.