Tag: Bill Stern

SC State Farmers Market Problems

By Paul Gable
The Legislative Audit Council recently released a report documenting ongoing problems at the SC State Farmers Market in Lexington.

The report was conducted at the request of members of the General Assembly.

The overall conclusion of the report is that the market is unable to sustain itself without the injection each year of taxpayer dollars.

A rebuttal at the end of the report by SC Secretary of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and his department disagrees strongly with the findings.

The SC State Farmers Market has been a political football since the SCDA determined the former market site in Richland County was not viable even though $4.4 million in taxpayer dollars had been spent to develop it.

However, former Agriculture Secretary Les Tindall opposed the relocation because he said the market made money without the need of taxpayer dollars with the help of rent it received on USC football home game days from parking fees.

A resolution to relocate the site passed the SC General Assembly on May 8, 2008. SCDA officials said there was no official commitment to Lexington County until the resolution passed even though an incentive agreement for the new site had been signed by Lexington County and the developer in December 2007.

State Farmers Market Purchase on Hold

State Farmers Market Purchase on Hold

Expansion of public ownership in the State Farmers Market in Lexington was avoided this year when House members of the budget conference committee would not agree to the $13 million the Senate wanted to appropriate.

S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers asked the General Assembly to appropriate nearly $17 million in this year’s budget to purchase the property. It is owned by Columbia developer Bill Stern who also serves as the chairman of the State Ports Authority.

According to Weathers, the $17 million amount was based on an appraisal provided by Stern. The Senate agreed but the House balked. The Senate came down to the $13 million amount in conference, but the House still wouldn’t agree.

State Farmers Market Purchase on Hold

13 Million Will Buy You A Toxic Waste Site

One of the state budget items to be discussed this week by the House/Senate conference committee is the proposed purchase of additional land at the current site of the state farmers market in Lexington.

The House put $1 (one dollar) in the budget for the purchase while the Senate was much more generous with $13 million. Quite a large range to discuss and there are many reasons why.

When the state moved the farmers market two years ago, sites in Lexington and Richland counties were considered. Sources in the General Assembly say the Richland site was preferred for a long time until a late drive with petitions and the like secured the market in Lexington.

What wasn’t known at the time, according to legislators we talked to, was that the Lexington site has considerable environmental issues. It was a toxic chemical waste dump for many years and there are EPA warning signs on the property to this day.