For the second time in two months, council put off making a decision on the memorial landmarks program.
The city says the Legacy Landmarks program, which allows residents to purchase and install park benches and picnic tables in memory of a loved one, requires changes.
Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation, and culture, said one of the biggest problems is the city is running out of space to accommodate the memorials.
There is currently a waiting list of 59 people wanting to buy a landmark item.
Mayor Walter Jakeway can’t understand why city staff would tell people they’re waiting because there’s no room to put their memorial.
“It’s hard to tell people that we don’t have more places to put benches or picnic tables,” Jakeway says. “I’m sure if I went out for a drive I could find lots of places. And to have people waiting who want a bench or picnic table.”
The city’s solution is to maintain the landmark items for roughly 25 years, and then make the space available to a new leasee.
Coun. Larry Samson said that should be discussed away from council chambers.
He recommended council refer the item to the city’s new Community Partnership Committee, expected to sit in September, where costs, the life-time of the items, and location could be more thoroughly discussed.
“This one is near and dear to our family’s heart as we have a table in memory of my sister,” Samson said. “For the program all of a sudden, after 15 years, to stop would be devastating to my family. It would be devastating to my sister’s two children who are now young adults.”
Council also received a letter from one resident who is concerned a bench purchased by her family, and enjoyed by many walking along the beach, may be taken away.
“To us, this is Jerry’s tombstone and at the time we purchased it, we were led to believe that it would always be there,” Corinne Mergaert wrote in an e-mail. “Please think long and hard before you make such an insensitive decision. I can assure you our family is not alone in our feelings concerning this matter.”
Jakeway said with a little creativity, people should be accommodated.
“I think we need to be more imaginative and get on with it,” he said. “For a lot of people it’s a sense of closure. I think we need to get out there and find a place.”
Councillors Andy Adams and Ron Kerr agreed they would both like to see alternatives to the benches and tables. Kerr suggested memory plaques in Spirit Square that, through purchasing fees, could help fund programming.
The city would also like to address rising program costs and recommended raising the price of a park bench to $2,500 and to $3,000 for a picnic table, with city subsidies of $769 and $1,373 respectively.
The price now for a park bench is $1,800, while the city subsidizes $1,329. A picnic table costs the donor $2,000 with the city subsidizing $2,173 of the cost.