Local, artisinal furniture downtown? Council leans towards hand-crafted character over cookie-cutter catalogue pieces

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
March 27th, 2013

Despite the mayor’s protests, council decided emphatically on Monday evening to delay a decision to spend $100,000 on downtown street furniture until detailed finances on the Columbia-Washington renovations are available.

Council discussion also quickly galvanized around an idea presented by Coun. Kathy Wallace that local artisans ought to be approached for street furniture proposals. 


“I’m not sure that ordering street furniture out of the catalogue really reflects the character of our community,” she said.


First, however, Coun. Kathy Moore raised the motion to defer the furniture discussion until the budget is tabled. “At this point, we don’t have final figures on what the Columbia Washington upgrades have cost. It’s not prudent to spend more money,” she said


Mayor Greg Granstrom replied, “I’d like to remind council that we spent years with lots of public input. The public was very much interested in street furnishing. If council were to defer, it would say that all the time council has put into this has been wasted.”


Coun. Cary Fisher said, “I respectfully disagree,” and suggested a “sober second look.” Although he said he was in favour of street furniture in general, “it would be a prudent decision to delay it.”


Coun. Kathy Wallace said she would also “like to see this expense in combination with all the other expenses,” but moreover, “I’d also like council to consider doing this differently” and “maybe setting off in a new direction.”


“When we discussed this last fall,” Wallace said, “part of reason I was in favour of removing furniture from the contract was to have a more creative approach to downtown.” 


She acknowledged that such a direction may mean downtown won’t have new furniture this year, but she emphasized the “many artistic and crafty people in this community, who could build street furniture that may be far more fitting for our community than I see here.”


Granstrom replied, “I have to point back again to nearly two years of input from our community.”


Coun. Jody Blomme said she agreed with Wallace: “It doesn’t make sense to pick expensive prefab furniture out of a catalogue when we have so many able craftsman locally, likely for cheaper.” She added that local craftspeople may “understand our downtown much better.”


Granstrom argued, “Staff have put in extensive time looking into options and sourcing the furniture.”


Coun. Tim Thatcher said, “We need some furniture in that downtown, it will really help the ambiance for downtown. As for the type, locally made stuff would be nicer, although it would probably take longer and wouldn’t be installed until next year.”


Thatcher also said it would be “prudent” to delay the decision to budget discussions.


Granstrom said, “There’s no point in me arguing with you any more,” and he moved to call the question to a vote.


Before voting, however, Moore added, “When I made the motion, it was just in terms of finances. I like the discussion around the table, and although I’m not unhappy with the furniture chosen. Thank you Coun. Wallace for the suggestion.”


Wallace also asked one more question before the vote was called: “What happened to the street furniture that came off the street last year? Can’t we reuse it for a year?”


The mayor said, “That’s outside this motion.” He called the question and council voted to delay the furniture debate until budget discussions. Nobody on council subsequently raised a motion to reuse the old furniture as a temporary measure.


Other News Stories