Park Ridge City Council approves farmers market changes

By Igor Studenkov

For the Bugle

The Park Ridge City Council voted 5-2 to approve a series of changes to the rules governing Park Ridge Farmers Market during its Oct. 2 meeting.

While the Farmers Market has always been a city service, over the last few years, it gradually strayed from the letter of the law. The new changes set out to create a clear relationship between the city and the market, as well as establish a clear process for choosing market masters and define the duties of everyone involved in running it.

To that end, the city council created a governing committee that will be appointed by Park Ridge mayors. While the original version of the ordinance called for the committee to chose a Market Master to handle much of the day-to-day aspects of running the market, the final version was tweaked slightly, allowing for two market masters to be appointed. This would preserve a current arrangement, where volunteers Karen Grunschel and Jay Crowley have functioned as de facto Market Masters for the past few years.

As previously reported by the Bugle, the Park Ridge Farmers Market was established in May 1, 2006. At the time, it was designed to be a public service, with the city appointing Market Masters and helping the market cover its expenses.

However, the original ordinance didn’t establish a clear procedure for how Market Masters would be chosen. So when the original Market Master, a city employee, retired, there was no clear way to choose her successor. There was also the fact that, as time went on, the market no longer quite followed the city budgeting practices.

During the Aug. 28 Finance and Budget Committee of the Whole meeting, Park Ridge City Manager Joe Gilmore asked the aldermen if they still wanted the market to be a city service, or if they would rather see it as an independent nonprofit. After some discussion, the majority agreed to it, but not before also agreeing to make some changes. Most of those changes were reflected in the version of the ordinance that appeared before the council on Oct. 2.

In the most notable change, it created a Farmers Market Committee. It would be made up of no more than seven volunteer members that would be chosen using the same procedure as other city volunteer committees and boards. Interested Park Ridge residents would submit applications, and the Mayor’s Advisory Board would interview candidates. While it would be up to the mayor to make the choice, Park Ridge mayors traditionally defer to the Advisory Board’s suggestions. Once the members are officially chosen, the city council must vote to either confirm or deny each choice. If a choice is denied, the process starts all over again.

The members will serve for three-year terms. However, the first members’ terms will be staggered, so that, once their terms expire, only a third of the members would be chosen each year.

The committee must choose which one of its members would be a Market Master. There can no more than two Market Masters serving at the time. Each Market Master serves for a year.

In addition to choosing Market Masters, the committee will take over some of the Market Masters’ duties. It will be responsible for setting the permit fee, with the new rules emphasizing that the market should aim to be self-sustaining. The committee will also determine what the permit application forms contain,

The new rules specify that while the committee will decide on the rules, Market Masters will be the ones to actually enforce them. The Market Masters would still be responsible for approving permits, revoking them, designating assigned spaces and handle other tasks required to keep the market running.

While under the original rules, Park Ridge health inspectors are the ones who fine rule violators, the new rules state that Market Masters can do it as well.

As previously agreed on by the aldermen, the new rules specify that the Farmers Market falls under the Community Preservation and Development Department, and its budget will be part of the department’s budget.

In the run-up to the vote, Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) felt that the ordinance was a win-win for the market and the city.

“I’ll just reiterate that I think the Farmers Market a great tradition in the City of Park Ridge and what we’re doing here is adding greater transparency and accountability to one of our city’s great traditions, so thank you,” he said.

The City Council voted 5-2 to make the changes, with Ald. Nicholas Milissis (2nd) and Ald. Roger Shubert (4th) voting against. During the Aug. 28 meeting, Milissis said that, over the past few years, Park Ridge has been moving away from “subsidizing things that aren’t essential to the city,” and he felt that keeping the Farmers Market a public ervice went against that.

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