Council mulls proposal for Main Street hanging baskets

Published 11:21 pm Sunday, June 26, 2016

City officials are evaluating an offer by a woman to place hanging baskets downtown.

During the Washington City Council’s June 13 meeting, Harold Robinson, executive director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, informed the council about the offer. “We have a great opportunity, in my opinion, to beautify downtown,” said Robinson, who did not identify the woman, who would pay for the hanging baskets and brackets to place them on 12 city-owned poles.

Robinson said watering the plants would be the city’s only responsibility under the terms of the offer. He said the watering could be done by the new city employee that will be hired to keep downtown clean and beautiful. The council approved funding for that employee in the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget, which takes effect Friday.

Robinson sought the council’s permission to move forward with the proposed project, saying he would like the hanging baskets up by Aug. 1.

Council members expressed some concerns with the proposal. Councilman Richard Brooks asked if the brackets would work on the poles, adding that he feared the hanging baskets could fall from the poles and strike passersby or vehicles. “Would the city be liable for that?” he said.

“The answer to that would be yes because they would be on our light poles,” City Manager Bobby Roberson said.

The city likely would have to buy equipment to water the plants, he said. “My experience has been, when I was a consultant to Kinston, they started out at 6 o’clock in the morning and finished up about 8 (a.m.). … There’s a special device you have to order to actually go up — you can’t water those plants off a ladder. You’ve got to have a mechanism that goes up and comes down,” Roberson said. “You can do it. We’ll need a golf cart and a water set-up in the back in order to do that.”

Councilman Doug Mercer asked how high on the poles would the baskets be placed. Robinson said he did not have a definite answer, adding that city officials could determine how high the baskets would be placed on the poles.

“We can get it done, and it would be done right. It would not be done in a second-class manner,” Robinson said.

Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty focused on maintaining the baskets once they are in place. “I just wanted to clarify that she’s willing to supply, maintain and replace,” she said.

Robinson said the woman would perform maintenance such as pruning and replacing plants as seasons change.

Brooks said the council needs more information, especially cost details, before making a decision.

“I just want to remind all of my council members that we agreed at the retreat that we would work toward making this a desirable tourist destination, and this would be a great opportunity to beautify Main Street,” Finnerty said. “This is the first I’ve heard about it. I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

Council member William Pitt suggested the city and the woman develop a memorandum of understanding that spells out in detail the responsibilities of the city and the woman so both parties know what is expected of them. Robinson said he would be happy to draft the memorandum.






About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike