| By Jason C. Mattox
A crowd of concerned citizens packed the board room during the monthly meeting of the Sardis Mayor and Board of Aldermen last Tuesday night – most of them there to discuss the future of the Farmer’s Market.
A decision on the fate of the facility was delayed again as it was never put to a vote.
Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye reminded the board that it had wanted to revisit the issue after having time to gather information from people in their respective wards.
"I think the people need to understand that when the Farmer’s Market was started, it was just that, a place for people to go sell produce," he said. "Now you have people out there selling new merchandise."
Dye said he understood that the Farmer’s Market offered people a chance to purchase things at a lower price.
"The problem is we sell a three-month permit for $45," he said. "And sometimes one person will come in and get a permit and three or four will sell things off of it."
Ward 1 Alderman JoJo Still said he doesn’t want to see the Farmer’s Market closed.
"I know we don’t get any sales taxes off the merchandise that is sold down there, but I really don’t want to see it closed," he said. "Sure we need to make changes, but I would hate to see it closed."
One suggestion Still offered was having a large scale sale in the Sardis Industrial Park three to four times per year.
"If we do it that way, we could make money that might be helpful to our police and fire departments," Dye mentioned.
He voiced the desire to settle the matter as quickly as possible.
Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn suggested some of the sellers might need to apply for a transient vendor license.
"It really has gotten to where that is a business for some of these people, especially those who are out there selling new merchandise," he said. "If they file for this license, it would cost them $250 plus a bond."
Scallorn suggested opening the Farmer’s Market once a month and limiting the merchandise to yard sale items and produce.
Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson proposed that the Farmer’s Market’s popularity could benefit the city.
"Who would have ever thought the Como Steakhouse would do what it has for that town," he said. "This could do the same thing for the City of Sardis."
Alton Garrison voiced concern about people who come from out of town to sell new merchandise and then take their profits out of town to spend.
"They shouldn’t be allowed to sell new merchandise, and it should be limited to the people of Panola County," Garrison said.
Business owner John White told the board he wanted to see the Farmer’s Market continue.
"I’m going to be honest. I want to see it stay in business because I make a lot of money selling these people gas and food while they are here," he said. "It’s not just me either. Think about how much it would hurt the other businesses in town if you closed it down."
White said if the city did close down the Farmer’s Market, he had spaces on his property along "back street" (behind the businesses on Main St.) to rent out to merchants.
"Plain and simple, if you close it down, you will be make Sardis a ghost town," one resident added.
Citizen Audrey Roberson said the city should be aware that if the Farmer’s Market is closed, people will simply move to Batesville, Como or any other town that will have them.
"Sure you might have people who are coming here from out of town looking for a good bargain, but using that as a reason to close it down is doing nothing but cutting the throats of the people who need the income to pay for medication or food," she said.
Following the input from the community, Dye commented that the board needed to look at ways of better organizing the sales so they can benefit everyone involved – including the city.
"It’s big and it is growing every week," he said. "I think this is the time for us to find a way to take advantage of it."