By Michael Howell
The Hamilton Farmers Market is feeling the squeeze this summer as the City of Hamilton is closing down Second Street to accommodate the American Legion Park reconstruction project. The Farmers Market has grown over its 21-year history to occupy the 200 block of Bedford, the one half block of Third Street to the south of Bedford and the half block of Second Street to the north of Bedford. The Market is open every Saturday from May to October. The closing down of Second Street represents a major blow to the Farmers Market vendor capacity and it’s the vendor fees that fund the Market’s operating costs.
At the same time, the Board of County Commissioners is looking at increasing its charges to the Market. The County owns the Ravalli County Museum building and has been supplying electricity to the Farmers Market for $100 per season. They are currently considering raising those fees to as much as $1,000.
“I think $1,000 is pretty reasonable for what we provide,” Commissioner Greg Chilcott said at a recent commissioners’ meeting where the topic came up. He said that aside from the electricity there is the cost of maintenance and upkeep and the capital investment in the building and grounds. The board decided to get some more definite numbers related to those costs before making any decision.
When the issue of the Second Street closure and its impact upon the Market was brought before the Hamilton City Council, Mayor Jerry Steele suggested that they consider expanding to the west down Bedford. Mayor Steele then suggested that, due to the complaints that have been registered by local residents concerning the Market and having the streets blocked off, it would be a good idea to consult with the neighborhood before expanding the market in that direction.
As a result of these concerns about location, street closures and parking, the Council decided to sponsor a neighborhood meeting to get input about the Farmers Market. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 14 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at City Hall. For more information you may contact City Clerk Rose Allen at City Hall, 363-2101, extension 30.
The Hamilton Farmers Market Co-op Board of Directors and Management has sent a letter out to “neighbors and friends of the Hamilton Farmers Market” urging them to attend the meeting and/or to send letters of support to City Clerk Rose Allen at 223 Second Street, Hamilton MT 59840 by March 11.
The Market’s board members state in their letter that although the Market uses the area on Saturdays, it is not responsible for the activities on Bitterroot Day in June or Apple Day in October. They also claim that complaints to the City and to the City Police about Market day activities are not forwarded to the Market board.
“We strive to be good neighbors and will address all concerns brought to us,” they state. They claim that the Market is having a positive effect on people, as well as the businesses in historic downtown Hamilton.
Market Manager Laura Craig said that she is hopeful that the Market can survive the closure of Second Street this year and continue to thrive in future years.