PENTICTON - City streets are looking better thanks to a graffiti removal program, but constant vigilance will still be needed to keep tagging in check.
City of Penticton Bylaw Services Supervisor Tina Siebert is asking council to include $28,800, half the cost of the graffiti removal pilot program, in next year’s budget for continuation of the program from March 2016 to March 2017.
Siebert says just seven months into the program there has already been success. More than 3,000 tags have been removed by contractor Pure Pressure in the downtown zone, at a cost of $32,000. She says the rapid removal of tags has also resulted in a slowdown of tagging activity. The cost of an average callout is $260.
“Some properties which were getting hit weekly are now getting tagged monthly, and there is no evidence tagging has spread to other areas,” she says, adding there is a desire to expand the service to city parks.
RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth, who walks a regular beat in the downtown core, notes call volume for tagging is down this year.
“It’s a lot better than it was,” he says. “Complaints are down, but vigilance has to be maintained.”
He says he received no negative comments from tourists regarding graffiti over the summer. The Penticton RCMP have also started a database to track taggers through their tagging patterns.
Kyle Bachmann, who volunteers with Penticton’s Graffiti Task Force, the community group that tackles graffiti in the city, says he’s happy with the improvements he’s seen since the program began. He says infrastructure his group used to clean up is now being done by Pure Pressure. Bachmann says he has noticed less graffiti in the downtown area, but an increased number of tags have been seen in other parts of the city, and on Highway 97.
At a council meeting Monday, Sept. 28, Coun. Helena Konanz said she understood funding would be reduced once the program was established. Downtown Penticton Association Executive Director Kerri Milton said the budget for the program couldn’t be reduced if the city is to maintain the gains made in the downtown area over the summer.
Milton also noted Kelowna-based contractor Pure Pressure was in the process of hiring a local worker.
Council agreed to support a continuation of their partnership agreement with the Downtown Penticton Association for another year at a cost of $28,800.
The program, which encompasses the main downtown city blocks, is funded 50 per cent by the city and 50 per cent by downtown businesses, who pay $113 annually if they participate. Businesses that opt out have seven days to remove any tags on their property, and face fines if they do not comply. This year 90 properties participated in the downtown program with only 15 opting out.
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