The Ridgeland Farmers Market has a number of vendors that sell different items, ranging from vegetables to flowers.
The Ridgeland Farmers Market has a number of vendors that sell different items, ranging from vegetables to flowers.
RIDGELAND — A request to pay the the volunteer manager of the city’s new farmers market was tabled. 

Ward 6 Alderman Wesley Hamlin led the meeting in the absence of Mayor Gene F. McGee and Ward 3 Alderman and Mayor Pro Tempore Kevin Holder.

The board decided unanimously to table the request from Gabe Porter, the manager of Ridgeland’s True Local Market, for compensation for his efforts.

“On the behalf of True Local Market and its vendors, I appreciate you all working with me and giving everyone involved this opportunity,” a letter from Porter addressed to Mayor McGee began.

Porter was asking for $800 per week for his efforts organizing the weekly event.

“As a professional, I have sacrificed much of my business and family to weekly coordinate the market,” Porter wrote.

Porter said this figure was obtained by way of researching the national averages and consideration of future endeavors of True Local staying in Ridgeland. He said they are projecting “much success and growth with this partnership and hope to grow the City of Ridgeland with our work.” 

Community Development Director Alan Hart, whose department has been the direct contact between the city and Porter, said at Monday evening’s work session that they were initially surprised when early talks with Porter had the position as a volunteer position.

McGee, who was present Monday, said that previous efforts to have a similar market had always come down to a paid position.

Ward 4 Alderman Brian Ramsey said that he had “concerns” and that Porter’s request was “vague,” but he was happy to come up with a “framework” to move forward and had no problem with offering the position compensation as a contractor with the city that answered directly to the board.

Hart said that he would be happy to meet with Porter to negotiate an agreement to present to the board. He also noted that in his discussions with Porter that the payment would include money he could use to make better signs and recruit vendors. He also noted that Porter presented himself in an “exhausted fashion” in regards to the work he put into the market.

Ward 5 Alderman Bill Lee said that it was not clear to him whether Porter wanted $800 every week or just the weeks the market would be open. Other aldermen agreed that was unclear.

Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard noted that this came up after the city had finalized their budget.

“This could have affected any number of discussions form the pay raises we gave to department wish lists. I really wish this had come up earlier,” Heard said.

Hart said that the first week the market had 14 vendors and collected $280 in vendor fees, most of which went back to First United Methodist for use of their grounds.

Hamlin asked that Porter come before the board to answer questions when this issue came before the board again. The board indicated it would come before them as early as the next meeting.