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Fort Covington board discussion gets heated when talk turns to farmer’s market plans



FORT COVINGTON - Tensions rose at the Fort Covington Town Board meeting Monday night when a heated discussion involving the proposed farmer’s market project turned into a discussion on why the town can never finish what it started.

The discussion between two board members became so heated that one of the board members walked out of meeting.

The controversy began when Town Supervisor Pat Manchester asked board members where they were on the paperwork for the farmer’s market, which is part of a town improvement project officials plan to finance with casino compact funds.

Councilman David Russell said they had some paperwork to wrap up, and that they would give Ms. Manchester a formal document containing the results of a survey that asked whether town residents thought the market was a good idea.

Mr. Russell said the survey showed people had some other ideas on what to do with the funds designated for the farmer’s market.

“Some people were likewhy build a whole new area for the farmer’s market when we could put it right in the old rink and put a roof on the old rink. It does make sense because you would have a roof for the rink and a place for the farmer’s market or use the pavilion that we have. Why build another pavilion for the farmer’s market?” Russell asked.

“If you look at the parking, it is not the best there, but we will have to create parking. You already have the park and you are only talking once a week for three or four hours, sometimes not even once a week. Maybe we should think about using something we have to start and make sure it is a success,” he added.

Mr. Russell also said that people thought it might be a good idea to put the money toward something the town already has to make it better.

“I have not got a lot of positive feedback on building something new right there for just a farmer’s market,”Mr. Russell said. “There are, however, a lot of positives on having a farmer’s market. That is the good news. Many people want a farmers market than not.”

Ms. Manchester responded by saying the town has a history of debating projects to death, and that officials need to be more decisive.

“We need to make a decision on what we are going to do this year, because we are already in May and we have got nothing done,”Ms. Manchester said. “We plan things and we never do them ... Why do we say that we are going to do things and we never do them?”

Councilman Paul Lauzon defended the deliberate pace.“I don’t like to spend good money on bad projects. I have said that before. I like to think it through,” he said.

Town Clerk Christine Benway interjected, “You know I need to speak up here. I can understand where Pat (Manchester) is coming from, though. How many times do you hear people say, ‘Oh I wish Fort Covington looked the way it did back in the old days.’ Then when people present an idea ... they want nothing to do with it.”

Ms. Manchester said she is getting tired of planning and not doing anything. The supervisor said she is not advocating jumping into a project, but some of these projects are nothing new and have been discussed.

Mr. Russell asked Ms. Manchester what they were not doing.

Ms. Manchester said, “We have not done a thing. We say we are going to do Jerry’s (Gerard Leroux, superintendent of highways) garage; we don’t do that. We are going to do this and do that. We keep putting it off. We only have so much time to do these projects. I just don’t understand it. We talked about a boat launch, and we have not done a thing about it. We have not even finished the ball field,” she fumed.

“Here we are in May, and we do not know what we are going to do. We are upset that we are paying unemployment on people, and we have all these little projects, but nobody is going to commit to them, that is the way I see it. I know it is going to be July and August, and we are not going to have anything done; it is going to be another year of nothing.”

Ms. Manchester said she comes up with ideas, and they just get shot down.

There were committee meetings regarding the farmer’s market, and the group met several times, Ms. Manchester said. She said the committee thought the farmer’s market would be perfect for the corner lot where the town used grant money to tear down a building to create the open space.

Councilman John Cushman said that at the time of the committee meetings theproposal to use the old rink or the pavilion at the park for the farmer’s market. Mr. Cushman said now Ms. Russell is getting new feedback from the surveys.

“If you want a roof on the rink, put a roof on the rink and don’t say we are going to put a farmer’s market there or if you want to use the pavilion in the back, we will make that the farmer’s market. Do something with that corner lot. It is suppose to be a public lot,”Ms. Manchester said.

“If you want to put a couple picnics tables over there and a small boat launch or canoe launch, that is what we are going to do, but the plan was we planned to use our casino money for a farmer’s market.”

Mr. Russell said he was just throwing the other ideas that he received through the surveys out there, but he said,“Like everything else if it is not your way, then it is the highway.I am just telling you that I do not make this stuff up. You asked for surveys and that is what the surveys said. I am not saying all the surveys, but a lot of the surveys said that. So I am just repeating what the survey said. Do not shoot the messenger once again. I am sorry I brought the bad news and brought something different,”Mr. Russellsaid.

Ms. Manchester said, “We all agreed on it (the farmer’s market). It was not just me.”

Mr. Russell decided he was not going to listen to anything more from Ms. Manchester and walked out of the meeting.

In an email sent after the meeting, Mr. Russell said, “I want to apologize for my behavior and shouldn’t of taken Pat’s comments personally and shouldn’t have walked out of the meeting.”

Fort Covington will hold another board meeting at 6 p.m.June 9.

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