I am writing to support Warren Farmers' Market and to acknowledge Josie Gerardi for her leadership and hard work in the past years' Market a job very well done for a very long time!
I have been following the news coverage of the challenges to this year's Market, primarily the levying of a license fee of $50 by the City for "potentially hazardous food" licenses. I note the market participants consider this an onerous amount, on top of the state registration fee they pay for their home production facilities and the $100 city permit fee for the Market. The Farmers' Market leaders are taking steps to assist those vendors who have been charged for the new license and I applaud them for their dedication and commitment to their members and community.
On the City-side, management states they pay out (WE pay) $12,000 annually. (This expense is the contract with the individual who conducts the food and beverage license inspections within the City). They claim that despite the license fees paid by the restaurants, bars, clubs, church kitchens and now some Farmers' Market participants, they "lose money" every year. And the fees charged are substantial: $50.00 for the "temporary/single event" license for Farmers' Market vendors, the single-event designation covering 14 days or less in one location per calendar year); $175.00 for the annual renewal license fee for permanent food & beverage businesses.
In contrast, other surrounding localities charge fees that are much less: The Farmers' Markets in PA that are licensed by state inspectors pay $14.00 for the same license. The Farmers Markets in Erie County pay $30.00 and the City of Corry charges no permit fee of any kind to host the Market there. Permanent food & beverage businesses licensed by state inspectors pay $82.00 for their annual renewal license. (This information obtained from Erie County Health Dept. and PA Dept. of Agriculture Food Safety Office, Region I, in Meadville 332-6890.) Inspectors from this office currently conduct the inspections in our county outside of the City of Warren. According to the Supervisor there, if the City chose to withdraw from the food safety inspection business, the state would take it back over.
It has been less than 20 years since the City took this on and if it is now a losing proposition and is costing the taxpayers money, I wonder if it is not time for us,
the City taxpayers, to walk away from a game we are losing, and return the responsibility for food safety back to the state.