Banner program, memorial benches fall victim to grass cutting funding decision

A program that helps beautify downtown and one that supports memorial benches will take a hit in order to finance grass cutting in neighbourhood parks

A program that helps beautify downtown and one that supports memorial benches will take a hit in order to finance grass cutting in neighbourhood parks.

Cuts to the city’s Banner Program and the Legacy Landmark Program were made by council Tuesday night to free up $20,000 in the parks and recreation budget for lawn mowing.

Council’s decision in March to reduce grass cutting in 10 neighbourhood parks and tot lots to two times per season, in an effort to save $26,000, was reversed a few weeks ago after the public complained grass was growing nearly a foot long in some parks.

Re-instating grass cutting to once every two weeks, meant council had to come up with $20,000 to replace what council had cut out of the budget.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s manager of parks, recreation and culture, recommended council cut $10,000 each from the Banner Program and the Legacy Landmark Program, which council chose to do.

Through the Banner Program, about 100 banners in the downtown core, Pier Street area, foreshore, Dogwood Street, Dick Murphy Park and Willow Point business area are put up twice annually.

The banners are a combination of city banners, area businesses and Arts Council banners.

Cutting out $10,000 from the program would not mean the elimination of those banners.

“The reduction would mean that city banners that were worn out or damaged would not be replaced,” said Milnthorp. “We would continue to use the city banners and other organizations’ banners currently in place.”

But Coun. Andy Adams didn’t agree with the recommendation, and was the only councillor opposed to the reductions.

“I take a lot of pride in having the banners around town,” said Adams at Tuesday’s meeting. “I would prefer to have a number of options for council to choose from rather than what’s before us in an all or nothing format. I would have liked to see more creativity from staff.”

Taking out $10,000 from the Legacy Landmark Program would mean the city would eliminate its budget for installing memorial items.

The program, which has a substantial waiting list, enables citizens to memorialize loved ones by purchasing a park bench or picnic table in their name.

The cost of purchasing the item is the responsibility of the customer but the city pays for the installation.

Milnthorp said the program is currently under review and substantial changes are expected later this year. With the reduction, there is $3,000 remaining in the budget to cover maintenance and repair of memorials currently in place, he added.