Grant helping farmers market, Brookings County

By: Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

$10,000 Wellmark Foundation grant to be used for benches, bike racks, electricity

Visitors to the Brookings Farmers Market can take a little more time to look around and relax when it opens May 6, thanks to the county’s approval this week of several infrastructure installations.

The farmers market got a nearly $10,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation, which will completely cover the costs of the benches, bike racks and an electrical post and their installation. It would also pay for the concrete pads where the benches and bike racks would be placed.

A pair of benches would be placed opposite each other along the main walkway approaching the courthouse, and another pair would be placed in the northwest edge of the courthouse lawn, along the Sixth Ave. sidewalk.

The farmers market moved to the courthouse location last year and has had vendors set up in the street, along the portion of Sixth Avenue between the courthouse and the Brookings Public Library and the Brookings Art Council.

The benches chosen would match the ones seen in downtown Brookings, with the Brookings Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department handling maintenance and repair and then billing the farmers market, as outlined in the now-approved memorandum of understanding.

The big concern about the additions when first discussed during the April 4 Brookings County Commission meeting was ensuring they wouldn’t be an issue when removing snow.

The solution was to have the benches be removable by having them not bolted to the concrete pads they’d be placed upon. Then, they could be removed for the winter months and returned when the weather improves in the spring.

Given their weight, Brookings Farmers Market board member Kirsten Gjesdal didn’t think they’d be at much risk of theft or being moved.

Several u-shaped bike racks would be bolted to their concrete pad, and were chosen after consulting with the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

The idea behind the push for the benches and bike racks to provide needed infrastructure in that area that could also help improve the atmosphere of the farmers market.

“People would just throw their bikes on the grass. People didn’t have anywhere to sit, so they don’t sit around and talk or eat or anything like that. They would just grab their stuff and go,” Gjesdal said.

One of the concrete pads for the benches would be extra wide so someone in a wheelchair could rest next to a bench off the sidewalk. This helps the project be ADA compliant.

“There are no benches or bike racks available anywhere on that side of the courthouse, which I thought was kind of surprising … in front of a public building. I think it would be a nice added amenity regardless of whether the farmers market is there or not,” Gjesdal said.

The courthouse lawn wouldn’t be damaged with the addition of a 110-watt electrical post in one of the concrete pads, to be done by Clites Electric.

Clites would accomplish that by boring from the post location to the courthouse instead of trenching.

“What the electrician suggested we do is put in a post with an outlet on it that would be set into one of the concrete pads where the benches are; they would pull that electricity directly from the courthouse,” Gjesdal said.

By having access to electricity at that post, the farmers market could use it to run its SNAP EBT card machine, receipt printer and a radio.

According to its numbers at the previous location at the City Plaza, the market never used much electricity: only about $7 worth in a year. The farmers market was prepared to pay $5 a day for use of the courthouse’s electricity via the post, amounting to about $130 for the year, but the county decided against requiring a fee.

“There’s no reason to set up another line item for $130 a year,” Commissioner Mike Bartley explained. “I think we can absorb that cost.”

According to Brookings Farmers Market President Steve Helling, there is no date for installation yet given they just received approval and have yet to place their orders, but the hope is that installation will be as early on in the farmers market season as possible.

Commissioners approved the projects on Tuesday. As Commissioner Lee Ann Pierce noted, the projects won’t just benefit the farmers market, but would benefit any activity happening around the courthouse.

Contact Eric Sandbulte at esandbulte@brookingsregister.com.

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