February 04, 2015 - 2:31 PM
PENTICTON - Penticton council is joining the war against graffiti in the city.
The Penticton Graffiti Task Force made a presentation to Penticton council’s Committee of the Whole on Monday, Feb. 2, urging the city to join in a campaign to clean up graffiti in the downtown core.
The task force asked the city for $57,600 to initiate a downtown pilot project to eliminate and keep graffiti out of the city’s core.
The project would involve the contracting of a Kelowna company that agreed to hire locally, with a policy to remove graffiti within seven days of notification. The city would agree to an initial 12 month participation in the project with the expectation of a heavy clean up this year, followed by expansion of the project to the rest of the city as expenses drop and other stakeholders can be signed on.
In their presentation, task force member, Downtown Penticton Association Executive Director Kerri Milton described the "broken windows theory”, explaining graffiti that isn’t cleaned up quickly tends to breed more tagging. Present volunteer efforts to clean up graffiti often resulted in mismatched painting that some residents saw as little improvement to the original tagging, she told the committee.
Corporal Don Wrigglesworth, a member of the task force, noted punishment for graffiti offenders often resulted in less of a fine than what it cost the victim to clean up.
“It’s considered a victimless crime, but there are victims,” he said, noting in a walk taken last week between the S.S. Sicamous and the pier, he took 45 photos of graffiti, “more than I noticed a few years ago in this town.”
He told the committee it was difficult to enforce clean up bylaws on property owners - essentially burdening them twice by enforcing graffiti clean up after the crime itself - when much of tagged city property didn’t get cleaned up.
City of Penticton Public Works Manager Len Robson pointed out the downtown area represented a small portion of the city, adding graffiti tended to be on city owned property, not on city owned things, such as dumpsters and electrical installations.
Chuck Loewen, General Manager of Museum and Recreation Facilities told the committee there was only $77,000 allocated for vandalism throughout the entire city. He said it would require a budget amendment to provide the funding requested by the task force, just to target the downtown core.
Councillor Helena Konanz expressed the view all groups involved in eradicating graffiti contribute while Councillor Judy Sentes was of the opinion the need to act on graffiti was “necessary and urgent” and there was a need to move the issue forward.
Councillor Campbell Watt called graffiti “a massive problem” in Penticton.
“The big nut to crack is the budget,” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said.
Milton said the task force was looking for a way to move their initiative forward without delay, adding the deal worked out with a potential Kelowna contractor would cost more if council delayed a decision too long.
The committee passed a motion to proceed with the pilot project, with the city picking up 50 per cent ($28,800) of the cost. They urged the graffitI task force to get other stakeholders on board quickly to provide the remainder of the funding in order for the motion to move forward from the committee to council.
Task force member and downtown shopkeeper Leigh Follestad said he was personally very happy with the committee motion.
“This shows the city is willing to take a leadership role in the process of removing graffiti,” he said, adding he didn’t believe raising the money would be difficult, but may take some time.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said council would have a better idea of where the additional money would come from after the task force returned to council with their share.
“We will be in a better position to know if there is a surplus from last year that we can use or how much of the existing budget we can use for this project and either make a budget amendment or take from reserves,” Mayor Jakubeit said in an email.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015