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Council makes landmark decision, approves sign at Heritage Park

'What better way to bring tourists and citizens downtown, and spilling out into our businesses,' says Coun. Mike McCann
03-06-2021 SignsSigns
Landmark sign could be located in Barrie's Heritage Park.

It’s a landmark of a sign Barrie could have by next summer.

City council gave final approval Monday night to a Heart (symbol) Barrie sign  to be paid for exclusively through $200,000 fundraised by Coun. Mike McCann before Oct. 10. The sign would be no more than eight feet tall and installed by July 1, 2022 in Heritage Park. 

The Ward 10 councillor has made a 100 per cent fundraising commitment of $200,000 by the October date – with 75 per cent of donations paid to the city by then, to finance the landmark sign.

“What better way to bring tourists and citizens downtown, and spilling out into our businesses,” said McCann, calling the sign both inspirational and fun. “Don’t you think this city needs some fun?”

McCann has said this project is intended to unite Barrie — to help businesses by driving residents and visitors to the downtown and have them celebrate the city by being photographed with the landmark sign.

Coun. Gary Harvey said it could go further than that.

“This is getting our city to the new age. This is all about the engagement of people with social media,” he said. “And there’s not $1 of taxpayers dollars going to its construction.”

Couns. McCann, Harvey, Sergio Morales, Robert Thomson and Jim Harris, along with Deputy Mayor Barry Ward, supported the landmark sign.

Couns. Clare Riepma, Keenan Aylwin and Ann-Marie Kungl, along with Mayor Jeff Lehman, were opposed.

Coun. Natalie Harris was absent from Monday’s council meeting. 

Lehman repeated his argument that there’s nothing special about the landmark sign.

“I don’t think we should be doing what everybody else has already done,” he said. “I don’t want us to be the same as everybody else  I want us to be better.”

But McCann said the sign’s final look hasn’t been determined. 

“We have no clue what the design of the sign will be because we haven’t decided yet,” he said.

Riepma said the sign isn’t a popular notion, period. 

“I think the evidence is pretty clear. People don’t come to Barrie to get their picture taken with a sign,” he said. “This is not something we want on our waterfront and not something our citizens want on our waterfront.

“I think it’s just a sign and that is all it is,” added the Ward 1 councillor.

Ward voted for the sign, but said he was glad the discussion was ending.

“I just don’t care one way or the other. This is a sign and only a sign,” he said, noting its cost will need to be fund-raised. “I need a good reason to say no and we don’t have one.”

Council heard four deputations Monday about the landmark sign, two favouring it and two against.

“Parks are for people, not signs,” said Cathy Colebatch, who noted Heritage Park is passive, reflective space.

“(There is an) overwhelming majority of residents who do not want this sign,” said Alyssa Wright.

Businessman Ryan Hawkes spoke in favour of the sign.

“I do not see the negativity to bringing the sign,” he said. “It allows people getting in front of it. It’s a droplet in the ocean of positivity.”

“Not only does it boost morale, it’s a great addition to Barrie,” said downtown businessman Stefano Agostino. “I don’t think this is an untasteful piece of art.”

Kungl tried to relocate the landmark sign from Heritage Park to the Barrie City Hall courtyard, but could not get enough votes.  

The motion council approved Monday night will also add $15,000 to the city’s operations department budget  beginning in 2022  to cover costs of any graffiti removal and winter maintenance on and around the sign.

McCann has said he’s never raised this amount of money in this little time before, but had already raised as much as $80,000.

If all of the fundraising commitment of $200,000 is not received by Oct. 10, 2021 – with 75 per cent of donations paid to the city by that date  staff would not proceed with a request for proposals (RFP) to design and manufacture the sign.

The project would instead be cancelled and any donations received would be returned to donors. Unlike other projects, this one does not have another funding source, so the city could not go to RFP until the funding is secured.

If 100 per cent of fundraising has been committed and 75 per cent of the $200,000 has been paid to the city by Oct. 10, 2021, the remaining 25 per cent would need to be paid to the city by March 31, 2022.

Oct. 10, 2021 was chosen to provide enough time for staff to issue an RFP and select a vendor to design, fabricate and install the sign before July 1, 2022.

As of May 28, 2021, the city had not received any donations toward the landmark sign.

Staff will report back to city council in a memo in October 2021 on the amount of donations received, whether the project is moving forward and next steps.

Staff considered four locations for the sign: Heritage Park, Meridian Place, Barrie City Hall, and South Shore Park, along Lakeshore Drive. 

Heritage Park is recommended for its wide-open spaces, view of the waterfront in the background and it’s close to the downtown offering connections to businesses, Meridian Place and gathering spaces for residents and tourists. It also provides enough space for safety and accessibility. There’s enough open space to safely allow groups to gather and safely take photos. Many city events take place at Heritage Park, so it is a natural draw for the community and for tourists. 

Concerns included that Heritage Park is the smallest of the main waterfront parks  Centennial, South Shore and Allandale Station. A hard surface in the vicinity of the sign installation will be important for accessibility and to avoid turning the turf to mud when wet. Security measures will also be needed to deter vandalism there.

To make the sign unique, it could be wrapped with public art to create a unique sign reflecting the community. This would provide a way for the landmark sign to showcase the uniqueness of Barrie and help to draw people back to the sign for multiple visits. 

The city issued a request for information (RFI) to better understand the scope of the project, anticipated timelines, costs and feedback on possible locations. It garnered 13 responses. 

The estimated timeline for the project is that it would take roughly four months from design to installation, be constructed from steel and aluminum and have a coating applied to assist with graffiti removal. The sign would be under warranty from between one to three years and should last between 10 and 20 years. It would be illuminated with LED lights, which would require little power and have minimal energy costs.

The sign would be maintained in all seasons by city operations staff, including snow clearing, landscaping, graffiti removal, etc. Graffiti removal would cost roughly $5,000 annually and winter maintenance would cost about $10,000 a year. These costs would be paid from the operations budget. The sign would be covered under the city’s blanket liability insurance policy.

Donors will be recognized by having their names embossed and colour branding in the concrete at the base of the landmark sign, with the size of the donor names embossed, being appropriate to their financial contribution. Each donor would also be provided with a memento of the sign.

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Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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