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Some market vendors don't want manager to go

March 18, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Some vendors at the Hagerstown City Farmers Market fear that losing the market's manager to budget cuts will be bad for business.

Norma Parks, market master for about three years, works 20 hours a week for the city. She is the only city employee losing her job as a result of budget cuts agreed to by City Council members during closed meetings in recent weeks.

Parks is paid about $10,000 a year. It is expected she will be laid off before the beginning of the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"She's very involved and that's what we like about her," said Carol Litten, who sells salads and pastries at the market.

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"She'll even pitch in if she sees a vendor is really busy. She'll go the extra mile and who knows if someone else will."

Litten said she spoke for many of the 42 vendors at the market when she said, "We're all quite upset that she's leaving."

Margaret Crownauer, who sells gift baskets and crafts at the market, said, "I think the city is making a mistake. I've seen an increase in the number of people coming through the doors since Norma started. Her salary can't be that much of a burden."

"We will survive without her but it's a shame they chose this one little position," Crownauer said.

Karen Giffin, the city's public information manager and Parks' immediate supervisor, said the city does not keep track of the number of customers going into the Farmers Market.

The market on West Church Street is open Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Giffin said revenues at the market have gone up since Parks was hired, but that most of the additional income has come from increases in the rates vendors pay to set up on the market.

Revenues from market stall rentals, which Giffin said Parks oversees, have increased by an estimated $8,000 since Parks was hired in 1996.

City Finance Director Al Martin estimated about $6,500 of that increase was due to rate hikes.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Parks' duties will be split among several employees.

"We'll work hard to provide the support the vendors are looking for," Zimmerman said.

"Change is always difficult and is always resisted at first. But eventually this will be viewed as a positive," City Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said.

Not all vendors are worried about what will happen at the Farmers Market without Parks.

The market has been operating since 1791, according to the city's official Web site.

"I'm not at all worried about it," said Randy Zimmermann, who sells bird houses and candles at the market.

After Parks leaves, he will become the city's primary contact with the vendors at the market.

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