Rent’s on the rise for market vendors

KINGSTON — Kingston Farmers Market vendors face a changing Port of Kingston as they kick off their 19th season this Saturday.

Port of Kingston raising rent to avoid failing audit.

KINGSTON — Kingston Farmers Market vendors face a changing Port of Kingston as they kick off their 19th season this Saturday.

A yet-to-be-signed lease will charge the market more than its $1 token yearly rent for the port’s waterfront park space. The new rent has yet to be established.

The change comes as a proactive stance so the port won’t fail an audit by the state, said Pete DeBoer, port commissioner for Kingston’s central district, who aids in setting policy for port operations. “The well-defined RCWs (Revised Code of Washington) give specific things we need to do to meet audit,” he said.

According to Washington State Law it is unconstitutional to give public funds to private organizations such as farmers markets. Although the markets are nonprofit, they still reap private funds through selling individual goods.

“It’s not something new, just a renegotiation over cost,” said Mike Bookey, manager for the Port of Kingston. “The port needs to be careful. We don’t want to be perceived as spending public funds to support private entities. It doesn’t mean we are trying to get rich off anybody. We want people to come and enjoy the park. We are just trying to figure out how to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.”

To be fair, the port now needs to charge rent to all other privately held events at the port waterfront, Bookey said.

“We need to set a policy that is fairly applied to everybody, that isn’t onerous and doesn’t prohibit people or deter them from holding events down here,” he said.

A charge of $25 was paid by the hosts of the last few privately held events, DeBoer said.

Although no one has signed anything yet, Bookey said his goal is for the near-completed draft to be signed before Saturday’s farmers market.

The rent will help pay for the garbage, electricity, heavy use of restrooms, toilet paper and maintenance done by port staff, he said.

Clinton Dudley, who manages Kingston Farmers Market and also sells produce from his Dudley Farm, said any comment concerning the lease is premature.

“We will cooperate with the Port as much as we can to keep the market,” Dudley said. “Everyone loves the port. We have the best location in western Washington.”

Kingston Farmers Market, established in 1990, built from 10 vendors to more than 110 in its prime just a few years ago, Dudley said.

“Generally the market averages between 20 and 60 vendors each week depending on the weather,” he said.

Vendors travel from all over the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas to attend and vend.

“With all rising gas prices and people worried about where food comes from, farmer markets have just exploded and I don’t see that trend changing any time soon,” Dudley said. “It’s the wave of future and creates sustainability for our local economy and our farmers.”

In fact, according to the Sustainable Seattle’s Local Food Economy Study (Kitsap, King, Pierce and Snohomish counties included) the economic impact of Washington State’s Farmers Markets starts and stays local.

According to the statistics, for every $100 spent at a grocery store only $25 goes back into the local economy. However, for every $100 spent at a farmers market $62 goes back into the local economy and $99 out of the $100 stays in Washington.

The Kingston Farmers Market is seen as a community gathering space, offering live music, produce, flowers, art, exotic delicacies and even a few oddities.

“There is no way we wont be able to set up Saturday,” Dudley said.

Among other changes at the port is a gift shop scheduled to be open mid-May, upstairs in the Port office.

“We don’t want it to be a trinket shop,” Bookey said. “We want it to be more and feature things specifically from Kingston and try to stay local as much as we can.”

The Port is currently under construction ripping out asphalt next to the water to make room for a grass road bed.

The grass road can support the weight of 96 thousand pounds per square foot and will be used in emergency situations requiring a fire truck.

Bookey said not only does it please community requests for more grass in the park, it is also better for the environment.

“The Port is undergoing changes and we all have to work around it,” Bookey said. “The whole idea is to make the Port better.”