Sooke wants changes to memorial bench program after ‘pay-or-pull’ letter backlash

Sooke wants changes to memorial bench program after ‘pay-or-pull’ letter backlash

Council asks committee for suggestions

Sooke councillors have rescinded the district’s memorial dedication policy and will do a “full review” of the program.

The program came under fire late last year when 25 people were told they were going to have to pay more for public memorials honouring their loved ones.

Sooke resident Brandy Rittaler went public with a letter from the municipality indicating she would have to pay an extra $2,000 for a bench and plaque placed 10 years ago at a cost of $1,600.

RELATED: Sooke rescinds bench letters, offers apology

Sooke council adopted a policy in 2014 that puts the price of a memorial bench at $2,000 for 10 years.

The letter to Rittaler said that another $2,000 was due by Jan. 31 or the bench would go to someone else.

Many of the sponsors of the memorial benches said they understood that the plaque placement was for perpetuity.

On Monday, council rescinded the policy and decided to send the issue to its new Sooke Program for the Arts committee and conduct a public survey.

Councillors decided not to endorse a policy proposed by staff.

“I don’t really love any options, but I like bits and pieces of all of them,” Coun. Bev Berger told a committee-of-the-whole on Jan. 22.

The policy proposed by staff would allow the purchase of a memorial plaque on existing park benches or picnic tables throughout district parks and Whiffin Spit.

The dedication would be for five years, with no option for renewal, but if council decides to spend $50,000 for the construction of a memorial wall at Whiffin Spit, after five years plaques would be returned to the family or be moved to the memorial wall.

Councillors agreed more time is needed to develop a policy.

“It’s reasonable we spend some time with this, and I like the idea of the wall,” said Mayor Maja Tait.

Coun. Kevin Pearson said a more workable solution is needed.

”I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think we can sit here and say we have the perfect solution. Again, it’s that open public dialogue that will help guide an appropriate course of action.”



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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