Flower barrel program to bloom again
WILMINGTON- The Great Flower Barrel Controversy of 2018 has been settled.
At least that’s what selectboard members are hoping after approving a new plan at their regular meeting Tuesday evening.
Acting on a new recommendation by the Wilmington Beautification Committee, the board approved another $4,200 in 1% local option tax funding for the placement of an additional 16 flower barrels in pairs at eight locations along Route 100.
“Several members of the business community on Route 100 were not happy about the fact that, they felt, they were losing their flower barrels,” said beautification committee chair Cheryl LaFlamme. “We looked at the options, and since we had 16 barrels we’re not using with the proposed plan, we thought we would put them in eight locations on Route 100.”
But beautification committee member Fred Skwirut asked for an assurance from selectboard members that the matter would be settled with their action Tuesday evening. “We made a proposal a month ago or so, which you approved,” he said. “Apparently there was a lot of concern about it, that we were taking the barrels away. And now we’re making another proposal, and on whose behalf?”
“It’s to pacify the group (of business owners)” said selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald.
“Not the board?” Skwirut asked.
“I think people thought it was going to be the same, but it wasn’t,” Fitzgerald said.
“We can live with this proposal,” Skwirut said, “but we don’t want to take any of the grief that comes with it.”
“From this point forward,” Fitzgerald said, “the town giveth, and the town can take it away. But next year, make sure everyone is notified and can consider any changes you propose.”
The controversy began last month, after the board approved a flower barrel program plan by the Wilmington Beautification Committee on March 21. In previous years, the plan included the placement of 32 flower barrels along Route 100. The new plan called for cutting the number of barrels to 16, and placing them in groups of four barrels in four locations along Route 100. According to LaFlamme, the committee believed the grouped barrels would have more visual impact on travelers along Route 100 than a greater number of single barrels, and it also cut their request for funding from the local option tax fund.
The beautification committee claimed they had discussed the change with Route 100 business owners.
At the March 21 meeting, Janet Boyd, of Boyd Farm, objected to the plan. Boyd Farm had submitted a bid for planting and maintenance of the barrels, a service they’ve provided in previous years, and lost out to Mary Pike Sprenger. Boyd complained that the committee’s RFP had not been clear or complete, but Boyd’s objection was in regard to the reduction of barrels along Route 100.
Boyd contacted numerous Route 100 business owners after the meeting and, two weeks later, on April 3, several attended the selectboard’s regular meeting to complain that they had not been consulted about the beautification committee’s plan, and lamented that barrels that had been placed at or near their businesses were not included in the new plan. One business owner connected the flower barrels to the 1% local option tax, and claimed their business pays the tax and is due, at the least, a flower barrel. However, the 1% local option tax is a “pass-through” tax that is paid by consumers on taxable goods and services, in the same manner as the regular state sales, rooms, meals, and alcohol taxes, and not a tax paid by businesses.
But the business owners also told selectboard members that the flower barrel program sent a visual message to visitors and to local residents.
“Things like that make a town look open, vibrant, and happy,” said Barbara Trudeau. “We need to continue to look like we’re open, vibrant, and happy. And businesses along Route 100 who get their barrels taken away feel like they’re being punished, and need to have some say.”
Steve Adams said the flower barrels “represent the brand of the town of Wilmington.”
Former Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold said that, during his tenure, the chamber received several letters each season from visitors raving about the town’s flower program.
Selectboard members relented and suggested business owners take their concerns to the next beautification committee meeting on April 9. At that meeting, the beautification committee met with business owners and formulated their new plan.