Bellevue delays market vote

It will be another month before Bellevue Council decides whether to allow the weekly farmers markets to continue for a fifth year in the borough.

Council as a whole opted to send the matter back to committee for discussion with instructions that this time the committee needed to do its homework and make a recommendation to council.

The farmers markets held Wednesdays on Hawley Avenue have been sponsored for the last two-and-a-half years by Enjoy Bellevue, a nonprofit organization run by Michele Smith.

Although Smith attended the January parks and recreation committee meeting in an effort to get approval to use the street again this year, committee chairman Jim Scisciani told council that he needed more information.

Smith was present at Tuesday’s regular council meeting to answer any questions, and stated that the vendors were scheduling their spring and summer markets now.

Much of the hesitancy to make a decision seemed to arise from confusion over the borough’s role in the markets. Scisciani and council member Kathy Coder said they were concerned that the borough could incur liability.

“Everything you do has potential liability,” said solicitor Tom McDermott.

In this case, however, Enjoy Bellevue carries a $1 million insurance policy.

Smith said that the extent of the borough’s involvement in the farmers markets was allowing them to be held on a portion of Hawley Avenue. She said that she had spoken with the fire chief, and that he did not see a problem with the market’s location just down the street from the fire station.

Coder said that council’s finance committee had decided last fall that the market should be “privatized.”

“We want to get out of the farmers market business,” she said.

“We’re not in the farmers market business,” said council member Jane Braunlich “Enjoy Bellevue is in the farmers market business. They’re just asking to use our street.”

“It’s [called] the Bellevue Farmers Market,” Coder said. “Our name is on it.”

Smith said that she had investigated the possibility of moving the market onto private property, but that this did not appear to be a viable option.

Scisciani and Coder also said they wanted to see Enjoy Bellevue’s by-laws before making a decision.

Braunlich said that the borough has never asked to see the by-laws of organizations that hold events on borough property. In fact, she said, there seemed to be a different standard used to evaluate various groups, with some required to have insurance, some just to get waivers signed, etc.

Council member James Viscusi said that Enjoy Bellevue had met all the borough’s requirements in past years.

Braunlich made a motion to approve the farmers market for 2012 without sending the matter back to committee, but the motion died in a 5-3 vote. In favor of it were Braunlich, and Jim and Susan Viscusi. Opposed were Scisciani, Coder, Frank Camello, Mark Helbling and council president Linda Woshner.

Woshner warned the committee to work out the details in the coming month, and to treat Enjoy Bellevue the same way other organizations are treated when they request permission to hold events on borough property.


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