May 21 2018 06:06 AM

City Market subsidy faces the axe tonight


MONDAY, May 21 — The Lansing City Council is expected tonight to strike all or part of an $80,000-a-year subsidy to the City Market in order to fund a new code enforcement inspector.


Mayor Andy Schor said Sunday he favors cutting the subsidy in half, as proposed by Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley, and using the remaining $40,000 to help fund a code compliance officer focused exclusively on business corridors.


The new position is expected to cost $100,000 in salary and benefits. To raise the additional funds, Schor said he also backs a plan by Councilman Peter Spadafore to transfer funds budgeted for an assistant fire chief position that is vacant.


Referring to the 50 percent cut, Spitzley said, “That allows them to continue operating, but to come up with a plan on the City Market.”


The Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which runs the struggling market, is working on a new operating plan. Its boss, Scott Keith, has said the concept of a farmers market is outdated, given the number of neighborhood farmers markets that have sprung up in Lansing.


Keith confirmed last week that it is not renewing a lease with the market’s major tenant, Waterfront Bar & Grill, which Keith said expires June 30. However, an executive of the company that owns the business, Patrice Drainville, disputes that. She said the contract automatically renews every third year.


Spadafore said the assistant fire chief position — one of two— “may not be necessary, but that is something we need a full-time chief to come in and tell us.”


Lansing and East Lansing share a fire chief, but that will end July 1. Chief Randy Talifarro will continue only in East Lansing. Spadafore said, “It’s going to take time to find a chief and for that person to figure out their staffing needs. There won’t be any expenses in that line item for some time.”


Schor said Sunday night that his “preference right now” was a combination of the two plans. “But I will wait and see how this all plays out tomorrow night at Council, and weigh in there.”


Two other Councilmembers have plans as well. First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington would completely eliminate the $80,000 subsidy. Council President Carol Wood proposes cutting General Fund miscellaneous accounts by 2.1 percent and increasing the revenue account for code compliance by $50,000. The cuts and increased revenue would equal $100,000, Wood said.


Schor said he would not support either plan. Schor expressed concerned eliminating the subsidy would result in having to close the market on July 1, at the height of the summer season.


Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. tonight for Committee of the Whole, and then at 7 p.m. for its regular meeting or after Committee of the Whole, whichever is later.