By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Memorial Day Parade volunteer fundraiser Chris Dardzinski and Farmers Market coordinator Leslie Lynch-Wilson focused on financing during a March 18 study session that looked at short- and long-term solutions.
Dardzinski said the most recent fundraiser fell short of raising enough money to pay for parade expenses, but an upcoming weekend fundraiser should help fill in the gaps for this year. He said paying for the cost of insurance, police presence and Department of Public Works employee setup time are the parade’s major financial costs.
Mayor Thomas Karnes said now that the city is fiscally stronger, he would like to see how it could help the parade from a manpower perspective without violating any city charter stipulations.
City Council President Donna Breeding said a city ordinance change would be needed to remove the financial barriers to allow the city to provide city employee help without a direct chargeback for the 2020 parade.
Lynch-Wilson said the Farmers Market has undergone changes and challenges because of a shift in its funding sources and the increasing scarcity of independent farmers available to attend city markets.
Lynch-Wilson said the city’s downtown development authority originally funded the Farmers Market. However, when that money was no longer available, the Farmers Market was funded by Cultural Commission money.
She said funding has been used to support programs like the Power of Produce, which encourages children to eat farm fresh, whole natural foods.
Lynch-Wilson said the Farmers Market van is one of its biggest expenses.
City Manager Matt Coppler said that while the city has vehicles, its insurance arrangement states that a city employee much be the one driving the vehicle.
Lynch-Wilson said some Farmers Markets, like Wyandotte, have transitioned to monthly events due to the difficulty of recruiting product sellers to attend.
She said fewer people were using a Michigan Bridge card to buy produce, but that may be impacted by multiple factors.
Lynch-Wilson said vendors favor the current Farmers Market location, because it is in a high visibility spot, and the pavement is a positive point because it improves accessibility for people with disabilities.
Dardzinski said volunteers continue to be needed to support the parade and other endeavors.