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Council rejects public art reduction

Motion from Coun. Sheena Hughes defeated by majority of council

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am

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An attempt to reduce the percentage of utility capital project funding that goes towards acquiring public art was rejected by the majority of council Monday.

At this week’s council meeting, Coun. Sheena Hughes brought forward a motion to have “council review the percentage that is to be budgeted for eligible utility projects to fund the accession of public art and that until such review is completed no budget contributions for public art from 2014 utility projects be committed or spent.”

Council’s public art policy is that one per cent of the budgeted cost of all eligible capital projects be used to acquire more public art. Hughes wanted to remove or reduce the percentage in the case of utility capital projects.

“The policy does not explicitly state that utility projects are to be included,” Hughes said. “We already have 278 pieces and counting in St. Albert.”

Hughes said in the face of rising utility rates it’s unfair to add what she called a surcharge for public art.

“We can make art a priority without having to increase utility rates further,” Hughes said.

Hughes pointed to several capital projects planned for 2015 that would feed into the art fund.

Coun. Cam MacKay was ready to support the motion.

“It’s just a question of whether you think that residents should have to buy art when they turn on their water,” MacKay said.

He said in his research it appeared to be rare that communities direct utility capital project money to public art.

Kelly Jerrott, director of cultural services, disagreed and said Calgary does so and it is common practice across North America.

Coun. Wes Brodhead asked if any public art projects would be put in jeopardy as a result of this motion. Jerrott said there were some projects identified but any plans have been put on hold given the motion.

Mayor Nolan Crouse came out strongly against the motion.

“I’m not going to support this. I believe that part of the character of our community has to do with some of the artistic features,” Crouse said.

The mayor said the public art doesn’t need “to be overtop a sewer grate.”

“I think we need to continue investing in public art,” Crouse said.

Hughes’ motion was defeated, with she and MacKay voting in favour of it and the rest of council opposed.


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