Is It Defense Or Defacing?

To fence or not to fence, that is the question.

In 2011, the City of Warren invested approximately $42,000 in the concrete planters that were installed during the Streetscape project between Liberty Street and Hickory Street. Additional funding is used each year to prepare the beds in the spring.

Knowing that thousands of people will line Pennsylvania Avenue for the Fourth of July parade, should the city protect those assets?

Last year, plastic orange fencing was set up to protect the plantings. But, according to Main Street President Dan Ristau who addressed City Council on Monday night, “We have such a beautiful downtown and then that sight It’s hideous in this beautiful, beautiful downtown.”

Ristau proposed that he would get a group of four to five people to monitor the plantings on the day of the parade. In the wake of that proposal, council voted not to put up fence.

But concerns were immediately raised regarding Ristau’s proposal.

“I don’t see how you can maintain it with four to five people,” Councilman James Zavinski said. “You’re going to have to have people five to six feet apart.”

“What happens if a volunteer monitor sees someone messing with or destroying the flowers,” Mayor Mark Phillips asked. “What are they supposed to do? What are we empowering that volunteer to do?”

Councilman Dr. Howard Ferguson said that citizens cannot be empowered without the city assuming some degree of liability.

Council Vice President Maurice Cashman asked, if the flowers were trampled, what the plantings would look like for the remainder of the year.

“You only have one shot at this (protecting the flowers),” Ferguson said. “When it’s done, it’s done. It’s just too risky to me to put to risk all the work that has been done down there. To me, it is a matter of risk.”

Claiming that “we’re not talking about that much fencing,” Zavinski said, “I think you have to have it up. (The City) put too much time, effort and money to get this job done and it looks beautiful.”

“I think the liability is too great to say to a volunteer group ‘go protect city assets.’ I think it’s too late in the game,” Cashman added.

Councilman John Lewis noted that the motion rejected was just to not put fence up, not to empower anyone.

Cashman proposed that alternate proposals, as well as fencing, be revisited at the June council meeting.

Further down the street, starting in the 440 block of Pennsylvania Avenue and proceeding west, Councilman Joseph Sprentz asked Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz if the seedlings recently planted there would be fenced as well.

Holtz said that he “was not planning to but could.”

“That is a very highly used area for the paradewhere the new seedlings and bushes are,” Acting City Manager Mary Ann Nau said.

Councilman Sam Harvey asked if the city could make parade fencing out of lawn chairs.