RIDGELAND — Despite support from some city officials, aldermen on Tuesday decided to deny another proposed management agreement for the city farmers market that launched last fall.

Aldermen denied approval of a new professional service agreement with Gabe Porter, the current man in charge of the True Local Market, that was presented by the committee formed at the end of last year to study the concept. 

The vote was split 5-2 against, with only Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Gautier and Ward 6 Alderman Wesley Hamlin voting in the affirmative. 

This was the same breakdown in the opposite direction when aldermen voted 5-2 to table the item until a committee had come up with a plan. 

They gave a tentative deadline of the first meeting in April, though the committee approved the proposal this month.

Committee members included Jan Richardson, Carla Palmer Allen, Kelly Mott, Beth Henry, Lynn Hunt, Wendy Bourdin and D.J. Baker. Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard was also on the committee.

Mott presented for the committee and Baker, who represents market vendors, also spoke to aldermen Tuesday night.

Mott told the board that she thought the market would “promote a healthy lifestyle” in the city.

“We believe there can be a successful farmers market in Ridgeland, it will just require an investment from the city,” Mott said.

She added that she wanted to get on this now before Porter or vendors are enticed to somewhere else. She used “the Brandon amphitheater” as an example of a place that this could happen.

The proposed contract was for Porter to be paid $28,000 in 12 monthly installments of $2,333.33, plus an additional $13,600 to be handed out at the discretion of the city for market-related expenses.

“Basically, it is a process for the market to receive compensation for advertising and other business expenses,” Mott said. “It is not a blanket payment. He would have to justify expenses and turn in receipts.”

Porter had originally asked for $800 a week at the end of last year. He said that the money would compensate himself and a considerable portion would be put back into the market.

Mott said one of the reasons this was submitted to the board now, instead of April, was to get ahead of grants that were due in May and would pay out in September. Mott said the committee studied eight other municipalities in the state, many of which ran successful farmers markets with a combination of city funds and grant money.

Hamlin asked who would be in charge of applying for grants. Mott said that Porter would. She also said the committee would remain intact and would meet with and support Porter if he needed it.

She said their proposal would also allow Porter to seek permission to travel and represent the market at various events or set up a mobile version of the market out of town under the city’s banner.

Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith asked if they had considered setting up a non-profit to support the market with donations and without city funds.

Mott said they had not.

Smith said he was under the impression this was the kind of thing the committee would investigate.

“There is a way to do this and I am not sure we are looking at the most efficient way to get it done. I am sure plenty of people would gladly support this with tax-exempt contributions,” Smith said.

Mott responded, “We would have to grow to that.”

Gautier noted that the city invests in events like this all the time, specifically citing KidFest, Ridgeland Alert and hiring lobbyists.

“I have heard the objections of several board members and I understand their concerns about using tax money to fund this, but I think this is something that we can invest in and once it gets established it would grow into something that can sustain itself. I think it is a great idea,” Gautier said.

He added that he would support “pulling the plug” if this venture proved to be unsuccessful.

Baker said that he thought this would let down a “great foundation” for the future of a continuously operating farmers market in the city, noting that people come and go, but this plan properly implemented would leave a blueprint for future success.

Mayor Gene McGee said that things like this start with an investment from the city. He joined Gautier in invoking the continued success of KidFest.

City Clerk Paula Tierce said that this would require a budget amendment and would add $24,267 to the bottom line of the FY 2019 budget.

The board then voted to deny the contract.

After the meeting, Mott expressed her deflated feelings.

“I would say we are disappointed,” Mott said. “I think there is going to be a successful farmers market somewhere around here and I would love for it to be in Ridgeland. It would be another great addition to our community.”