Photo: Will Waldron, Albany Times Union
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NISKAYUNA – As the weather warms up, the plan for a farmers market this summer forges forward with town officials confronting questions about management, insurance and security costs.
The market is scheduled to run once a month this summer, starting July 13, on a side lot adjacent to the Niskayuna Co-op Inc. where the store usually hosts its annual Chili Cook-Off.
A follow-up meeting Tuesday after the town’s community programs committee agreed to the initial plan in February shifted expectations of who would be in charge and raised questions of who would pay for insurance, clean-up and public safety.
Representatives from the Niskayuna Co-op Board clarified that the store was willing to host but not manage the farmers market.
The town committee proposed Niskayuna Community Action Program, which wasn’t present at the meeting, to serve as the “market manager.” Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed said N-CAP President Jeanne Sosnow told her Wednesday that the organization couldn’t be the manager or extend liability insurance. N-CAP manages local events including the town-wide Niska-Day celebration.
“N-CAP supports the concept but we don’t have the capacity at this time to actually run it,” Sosnow said. “It’s something that once you get into it, there are a lot of details that have to be ironed out and we’re still at that stage.”
Both the Co-op and N-CAP said they would be willing to serve on a volunteer committee running the market – which seems like the most viable option for management.
Board Member Lisa Weber, chair of the community programs committee, said half a dozen residents reached out to her with interest in joining the farmer’s market committee. Resident Beth Greenwood, the former mayor of the village of Tully near Syracuse who helped start a farmer’s market there, volunteered to organize the group, which has yet to meet.
But questions of costs for liability insurance and police presence remain and will now fall on the town.
“We need it to protect the Co-op and protect the town, committee members and volunteers, like if someone falls and sues the town,” Weber said.
Syed said insurance paid by the town “wouldn’t cost much” to cover 10 vendors, but if the Town doesn’t act as the manager, the planning board would need to conduct a zoning immunity test to approve it first.
Police Chief Dan McManus said the event would require at least one officer to monitor pedestrian traffic from the parking lot across from the Co-op. The cost would be $100 per hour with a 3 hour minimum – adding up to $900 for the three-Saturday proposed farmer market season. If another officer is needed crossing traffic at Via Del Mar Street, the cost would double.
Highway Superintendent Ray Smith said providing barricades and garbage bags wouldn’t create any extra work hours for his staff.
Despite strong support from a community survey and the willingness of parties involved, the town is still ironing out details before Niskayuna residents can buy fresh produce under the summer sun.