A "Columbia Marketplace Revitalization Project" was presented during the borough's September 20 Public Property Committee meeting.
A group of four presenters, led by Cullen Farrell and Robert Irwin, gave a 45-minute presentation about an Aquaponic Booth to be housed inside the Columbia Market House near the entrance to the dungeon.
An Aquaponic system combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.
According to the presenters, the system would provide education as a micro-farm for children. Re-branding Columbia, economic stimulation, tourism, were among other purported advantages of having an Aquaponic Booth.
The presenters reassured the committee that if the booth is built, they will stay with the project in Columbia. One presenter said he plans to relocate to Columbia and wouldn't just be here on weekends.
Adding a greenhouse at the borough farm was also proposed. Borough Manager Greg Sahd asked if it would provide crops year-round. "Yes, 10-12 harvests per year," a presenter said.
Committee Chair Pam Williams asked if foods grown this way taste the same as foods grown in the ground and was told it will be an individual taste decision. Fish would also be sold at the Aquaponics Booth.
Presenters said that they have already discussed the proposal with Council President Kelly Murphy, Ron Miller, market vendors, and some "other folks." Murphy said "We have to try something different here." Roche FitzGerald said, "It's a really cool thing, and it's all the rage on the west coast."
Mayor Lutz said, "I'm 100% for it, but we need to move fast." Lutz advised the group to look into grants but added that one cannot start a project and then apply for grant money to be reimbursed. The grant application must be done prior to the project.
The group plans to offer three styles for the Aquaponic Booth, and open the selection process to the public. Choices would be on display at the market so that patrons can offer comments and participate in the decision. The style displayed during the meeting looked like a small red barn - almost a "Playskool" style.
Also on the agenda under "Old Business..."
Kevin Lehman was at the meeting to share details of a concept already presented to the River Park Advisory Committee. According to the agenda, Lehman was slated to go first, but the Aquaponics presentation was permitted to go first. Lehman left during that presentation and did not return.