Harrison Hot Springs will once again see new memorial benches coming into the community, after council approved a new memorial bench bylaw Monday (April 29).
The bylaw came out of a discussion in council six weeks earlier, when staff recommended that the village get rid of it’s memorial recognition policy. Memorial benches hadn’t been installed in Harrison Hot Springs since 2012, and staff felt it was time to remove the policy.
Current councillors, many of whom were new to council, disagreed.
“I think it’s such a useful way for people to have a memorial,” councillor Gerry Palmer said at the March 18 meeting. “That’s a way where people actually want to pay for something. I kind of like that.”
At the April 29 council meeting, community services coordinator Rhonda Schell brought forward a new bylaw that would replace the existing memorial recognition policy.
In this new bylaw, interested people would be able to purchase a memorial bench and use the plaque space for up to 10 years. These benches would be along Esplanade Avenue, as well as McCoombs Drive and parks throughout the village. (Bench locations would be determined by the village.)
Currently, Schell said, there are 41 benches in need of repair in the village. The first memorial benches under the new bylaw would replace these 41 items, rather than being installed in new areas.
The cost is $2,950 to replace a bench that already has a concrete pad, or $4,350 to install a new bench. Benches are made of recycled plastic slates and powder-coated aluminum. Plaques will remain on the benches for 10 years, with an option for the owners to renew their tenure. (If the owner doesn’t renew, the plaque will be returned to the last known address of the owner.)
During the discussion of the bylaw, councillor Samantha Piper said she was concerned about the cost of the benches, and asked if staff had looked at any lower-cost commemorative items that could also be included.
CAO Madeline McDonald said that, although council could consider other commemorative displays, it would be a new service provided by the village.
“Staff was of the understanding when we took this issue back was part of the desire of council was to see the contributed asset of benches in addition to creating an opportunity for people to commemorate their loved ones,” McDonald said during council.
“If council wants to further consider creating a new service, a commemorative service, that would be a larger consideration … (and) I do want to impress upon council that this would be a new service outside of the municipal services we currently provide, a commemorative service.”
Palmer suggested that people who found the price too steep could partner up to purchase joint plaques on the memorial benches.
“I think there has to be distinct value to the community in a memorial, and I think the benches do that,” he said.
Piper did not make a motion to include other memorials in the bench bylaw, and indicated she may bring up that discussion at the village’s Strategic Planning meeting.