State Farmer’s Market Controversy Continues
By Paul Gable
The purchase of land for “Phase Two” of the State Farmer’s Market remains on the political radar of S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, according to op-eds they each published in state newspapers last month.
A late attempt to get $16 million in the FY 2013 state budget to purchase additional land at the farmer’s market from private interests drew the attention of many familiar with the issue. The Senate proposed the $16 million, but, fortunately, the House wouldn’t agree and the proposed purchase died in conference committee at the end of the legislative year.
The attempt was made at the urging of Weathers, who wrote recently, “When state leaders decided years ago that a new State Farmers Market was needed to replace the old one on Bluff Road, the responsibility fell to me as your commissioner of agriculture to bring the new market to reality. And while the challenges have been numerous, we have a great new market that saved millions of tax dollars by combining private investment with public funds.
“Earlier this year, I proposed to the General Assembly that the state should invest in what we describe as Phase II of the market. In Phase II, the state would use some of the dollars saved previously to buy portions of privately owned facilities operating at the market…The income from these facilities would be plowed back into making the market even better.”
In one paragraph Weathers is bragging about saving millions of tax dollars while in the next he is proposing spending those savings by buying out the private owners.
McConnell, in his op-ed, sounded much the same tune as Weathers. “The proposed purchase included wholesale vendor buildings, the gate to the Farmers Market, all the produce sheds and the Corbett Building, a large structure with multiple tenants in the retail section of the market.”
Here is an analysis of the Corbett Building purchase by retired public servant Tom Elliott. Elliott sent this information to each state legislator during the spring. “The State leased the (Corbett) building from the developers for $195,000 per year, payable in advance for twenty years, even before the building was built. The State then leased the restaurant to the owner for $10 dollars per year. Several produce vendors were coaxed into signing leases which they have never lived up to. They are being coaxed into staying for little or no rent until “Phase Two” is closed.”
Sounds like we are talking about two different Corbett Buildings doesn’t it? Where does the truth about the Farmer’s Market lie?
Rick Brundrett wrote an extensive article on the Farmer’s Market issue and the politics that surround it in the Nerve. Read it, then contact your local legislator.