Officials hoped the new North Bay Village farmers market would enhance the community and put the village on the map as an alluring place for future residents and businesses.
But after three market days, patronage dwindled and some of the 20 vendors stopped showing up.
At the Dec. 11 commission meeting, Commissioner Eddie Lim asked for help.
“If we don’t address this issue today, I think the market will die,” said Lim, who had the idea to open the market and was instrumental in the initiative.
After much debate rife with proposals and withdrawals of motions – including one made by Commissioner Richard Chervony, who said he would personally contribute some of the money if staff members were unable to find it in village accounts — officials unanimously agreed to budget $5,000 to support the market.
Claire Tomlin, founder and president of the company that runs the North Bay Village farmers market, is confident the decision would keep the business afloat — at least through January.
“It really instills in me the energy to make it happen,” said Tomlin of the commission’s decision. “We will know by the end of January if we have the market or not. We will do our best.”
According to Tomlin, here is how the $5,000 will be used: To prompt all 20 vendors to show up at the market, each salesperson will receive an incentive of $50 every time the market meets in January. “No matter what happens on market day, they’ll make $50. It would help offset their expenses,” said Tomlin. That adds up to $4,000. The other $1,000 will contribute to the purchase of a large banner advertising the market.
City Manager Dennis Kelly told The Miami Herald after the meeting that the village would not give the money directly to Tomlin’s The Market Company. Rather, staff would write checks either directly to vendors or to the banner printer after Tomlin presents proofs of purchase, such as invoices, to village officials.
According to the final approved motion, $1,250 will come from the city’s contingency fund, or a $266,000 account constituted of unappropriated funds from previous budgets. The remaining $3,750 will come from the Finance Department’s budget.
Officials arrived at this decision after a dizzying discussion during which motions were made and retracted, leaving some in the audience and — at times — some of the commissioners confused.
The initial proposal, which never made it to a vote, asked the commission to pull out $5,000 from the contingency fund and designate it for special events.
Everyone on the dais — except for Lim — spoke against the proposition.
While Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez and Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps said $5,000 is too steep, Chervony said that the commission should not let the village’s contingency fund dwindle.
He added that since the market began as a private partnership, the village should not get financially involved. The farmers market started as a partnership between The Market Company and The Crab House, which hosts the market in its parking lot.
At one point during the meeting, Lim made a motion for the commission to budget $4,000 — instead of the initially discussed $5,000. This motion failed, as no one else on the dais supported it.
After more debate, commissioners decided to vote on two motions: whether they allow for village resources to be utilized — for free — to boost the business. Some of the proposed items were for staff members to advertise the farmers market on the North Bay Village website and causeway LED sign. Commissioners also said the village could provide a diesel-fueled generator for electricity needed on market days. The second motion asked whether officials approved contributing $1,250 from the contingency fund for the purchase of a market banner.