The anticipated cost of Morrisville’s Food Hub, planned as the permanent home of the Western Wake Farmers’ Market, is expected to exceed the $210,000 grant from the John Rex Endowment awarded to construct the site.
Though the project won’t be put out to bid until this spring, it’s estimated the cost will be about $327,000. The Food Hub has received an in-kind donation of dirt that should reduce the cost between $50,000 to $70,000, Town Manager Martha Paige said.
But that still leaves an anticipated deficit of about $50,000, which the Western Wake Farmers’ Market is attempting to tackle with an online fundraising effort. The market is a nonprofit organization.
By the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 29, 19 days after that effort began, the market had raised about $7,600 of the $50,000 goal. Donors will get rewards – many food-related – based on the amount of the donation.
Morrisville and the Western Wake Farmers Market have signed a memorandum of understanding – a non-binding document expressing each party’s intention to partner on the Food Hub. But a contract that outlines each party’s financial responsibilities and the conditions of the market’s presence has not been signed yet.
A contract will be drafted and adopted in the new year, Mayor Mark Stohlman said. He said the council hasn’t discussed whether the town would consider a loan or grant to help cover any cost overruns.
“This project was supposed to be a non-cost to the town, because we’re donating the land to help move this forward,” Stohlman said. “It’s great they’re willing to contribute, and I’m hopeful this will work out.”
Morrisville Councilman Michael Schlink asked at the council’s Dec. 13 meeting what might happen to the project if the fundraising campaign is unsuccessful.
“We have expressed to (the market) that their role in filling that gap would be important to town council’s consideration of the project,” Paige said.
Jim Pellegrini, president of the Western Wake Farmers Market, also said he is hopeful that bids for the project would reveal a far smaller gap between the grant and construction costs. If not, Pellegrini said, town funding would be one of many solutions the market could pursue to make up the difference.
“It’s not a question of whether we fold the tents and go home – the question then becomes when we break ground,” Pellegrini said. “But I haven't given up hope that the Town of Morrisville may decide that this is a great civic amenity and some small amount of money from the town budget could be directed toward it.”
On Dec. 3, the market began operations at a temporary site in Morrisville – the parking lot in front of the town’s public safety and municipal services building. It is open Saturday mornings. The market’s other location, at the UNC Wellness Center in Cary, will remain open, Pellegrini said, although he said there has been some discussion of moving that market to Sunday because vendors in the area are becoming stretched too thin on Saturdays.
Ben Howell, a Morrisville transportation planner, said the construction project, once bid, shouldn’t take very long. Construction will consist primarily of the installation of permanent concrete pads where trucks and trailers can park and the landscaping of open space and a community garden.
Time is a factor, though. The market’s temporary site is adequate for the smaller winter market but will be a struggle for the larger number of vendors the market typically hosts at its summer market. Pellegrini said the market has considered forgoing recruitment efforts for the summer market to ensure its current crop of vendors doesn’t grow beyond what the space can handle.
If the project proceeds according to schedule, the Food Hub could be ready for the market by June.
“I think that’s everyone’s hope at this point,” Stohlman said. “We’d hate to have a situation when the season hits and we’re not prepared.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan
The Western Wake Farmers Market is open Saturdays from 9:30 to noon at 260 Town Hall Dr, Morrisville. To learn about the Western Wake Farmers Market fundraising effort, go to http://bit.ly/2hHm5k0.