Certain major projects undertaken by the city of Saskatoon will carry a public art component after a vote by city council Monday.
The policy calls for public art costing up to one per cent of the budget on projects where the city contributes $5 million or more. That amount is capped at a maximum of $500,000. Under the one per cent formula, a project would have to include at least a $50 million contribution from the city to reach the $500,000 maximum.
The policy was originally approved in 2014, to come into effect in 2015. But it ended up back before city council when Ward 8 Councillor Eric Olausen made a motion to rescind the policy during deliberations for the 2016 budget. At that time, administration proposed adding public art to sound attenuation walls and a pair of new fire halls and several councillors balked at the cost.
At Monday’s meeting, council debated Olausen’s proposal to eliminate the public art policy root-and-stem alongside an administration proposal to modify the policy by making it apply to a list of specific project types.
The administration proposed to limit the policy to new libraries, community centres and sport and recreation facilities; major street rehabilitations or streetscape improvements; new bridges, bridge replacements and interchanges, and public spaces developed by the Saskatoon Lands division, such as village squares.
Ward 5 Councillor Randy Donauer spoke in favour of Olausen’s proposal to eliminate the public art policy outright.
“I think it’s a joke and I said that at budget time. I don’t get any phone calls from people saying ‘let’s spend more money for public art for capital projects,’” he said.
Donauer said he preferred to see the city stick to the basics.
“I think people have had enough of the Remai (Modern Art Gallery), they’ve had enough of the lights on the bridges. They’ve had enough of those types of projects. The most common comment I get from people is, you know, ‘when your roof is leaking and your foundation’s cracked, you shouldn’t be buying art for the walls,’” he said.
Ward 10 Councillor Zach Jeffries was among those who spoke in favour of the policy.
He pointed out that in many cases, the public art already included with some projects was done in the absence of any policy. He said he viewed the move as a way to get public art included in projects early, as opposed to tacking it on later — which could ultimately prove more cost-effective. He stressed that all capital projects still have to be approved by council.
Councillor Troy Davies said many of his concerns about the policy had been eased since budget time. He said it was important to note that not every major capital project would necessarily use the maximum allowable amount of money for public art. .
Olausen’s motion to rescind the policy was defeated, with only Olausen and Donauer voting in favour.
Donauer subsequently asked for an amendment requiring that the public art costs under the policy be broken out as separate line items when they come to council. He said he disapproved of having the costs lumped into project budgets in the same way that things like community engagement costs are.
Speaking against the amendment, Jeffries said he worried council was micromanaging the administration and creating unnecessary holdups in the approval process.
He pointed out that there are many instances where projects include components that go beyond the most barebones, functional design available — without having each individual cost debated by council.
“There are things we do to make things look nice that cost more money that we do already. For us to start picking at every little thing, we may as well start busting out landscaping … grass is more expensive than throwing down a sheet of (plastic) and adding gravel,” he said.
Council passed the amended version of the policy proposed by the city administration.
Donauer’s amendment also passed – meaning that any future public art costs for major projects will be reported to council as an item separate from other costs.
-Council voted to accept a warning from administration about medical marijuana dispensaries. A report highlighted that council would be violating current federal drug laws if it moved to regulate dispensaries at the city level and allow them to operate. Council still has the option to revisit the policy should federal laws change.
– Council voted to defeat a recommendation that would have limited the time candidates in municipal elections could collect donations to the period of Jun.1 to Dec. 15. They voted in favour of restricting when candidates can spend campaign money to that period.
-Council also approved finding a new chief returning officer for elections. In the past, the role was filled by the city clerk.
– Council approved a motion forbidding anonymous campaign donations and requiring that receipts be issued for donations.
– The city will begin looking for contractors for a bundled project to build two new interchanges. One interchange would be at Highway 16 and Boychuk Drive, the other is at McOrmond Drive and College Drive.
The move comes despite the fact that the city has an application for $29 million pending with the federal government for the Highway 16 and Boychuk Drive interchange. The administration said they are confident of securing the funds, but want to get the process moving so that at least some work could potentially start in 2016. They said the process to get proposals for the project in would likely take six to eight months.
Council approved the request, along with an alternate funding plan should the federal money not be approved. Council was warned that the city would lose its eligibility for the federal dollars if it picks a contractor before getting the funds approved.