The Farmer's Market Association here will continue to operate without insurance after a council committee of the whole failed to identify an affordable option.
The committee managed to pare down a list of outstanding concerns to a question of insurance and the town's provision of supplies until the matters can be addressed further.
In the meantime, approval was given to pay $2,100 in vendor fees collected by the town over the last five years to the association to use for promotional purposes.
Similarly, an amendment was made to the farmer's market bylaw to set an annual $25 fee for vendors and a monthly $10 fee for temporary stall rentals.
But insurance questions and the committee's fear of the town's exposure to liability for a market operated on municipal property made for a complicated discussion.
Town staff initially suggested the market association sign up with the Farmers Market of Ontario and take advantage of that group's umbrella insurance coverage which would cost up to $1,200 for the local group.
But market association secretary-treasurer Laura Lauzon said that avenue has been explored and the cost of insurance is prohibitive, at least for the time being.
A suggestion that individual vendors take out their own insurance policy – which could cost up to $600 per vendor – would decimate the numbers at a market which is trying to rebuild after years of decline, said Lauzon.
“If you are asking a vendor to pay an annual fee and insurance, I think you will have empty tents,” she said.
She said the association will look at the cost of acquiring blanket insurance next year and may come back to council with a funding request to cover the fee.
Mayor Brett Todd said food preparation is a sensitive issue but he noted local church suppers are able to serve food without inspections from health authorities by posting signs warning buyers the food is not inspected.
Todd said time is of the essence for the market association with the busy summer sales season around the corner.
Allowing the market to operate without insurance exposes the vendors and the town to risks from liability, noted Councillor Michael Dimopoulos.
A Prescott council committee of the whole asked for the farmer's market bylaw to come back for further review with questions of insurance and the town's role supplying tables, signage and barricades still to be determined.
The committee voted not to donate $1,000 as initially requested by the market for 2013 because this year's budget has already been set.
On the other hand, the committee agreed to pay '$2,100 to the association in back fees collected the past five years.There was support to the market association to operate as an autonomous body and not as a council committee.