Two letter writers express the exasperation of the Town’s residents regarding the mysterious and inexplicable disappearance of benches from the community.
A few weeks ago we received the following letter to the editor.
“I realise that this problem may be small but it contributes to the theme of playing around with our waterfront. Again in the Higson Crescent neck of the woods, the Town of Qualicum Beach has seen fit to remove our bench at the beach access along with the bin.
As far as I can tell our neighbourhood was the only beach access point to have benches removed. We had one bench at the end of Seacroft which borders the town boundary of Qualicum Beach and connects with Higson Crescent. That one bench served our street, along with the town house units across Hwy 19A, as well as people walking down the hill from Laburnum. The 3 beach accesses on the short street of Judges Row have 2 benches and a bin at access #1, 3 benches and a bin at access #2, and 4 benches and a bin at access #3. We could not find a single beach access in Eaglecrest that had had a bench removed.
There is an elderly couple that often walked the neighbourhood in our area and came to sit on the bench in the early evening – they came last week only to find their favourite spot with no place to sit. Not only that the bags of dog feces that used to go in the bin from numerous dog walkers can now be seen and stepped in all along the verge of the road.
When asking the Town worker why he was taking away our bench, he quoted maintenance costs – which doesn’t seem to be a problem for any of the other beach access points.
If you would like one of these benches that the Town has removed from our access and other spots around town – you can buy one on Facebook marketplace where the Town is selling them for a hundred dollars.
Faith Robertson, Qualicum Beach
As we reported in a previous Breakers item, Council benches Wiese and Harrison, on September 8, 2021 Council directed Town staff to replace the benches that were recently removed, as appropriate, as soon as possible. Three weeks later we asked Ms. Robertson if their local bench and garbage bin had been replaced yet. Here is part of her reply:
“I went and checked just to make sure the bench and waste bin had not been replaced and they have not.
As my husband pointed out, the cost of this course of action seems beyond short sighted and verging into the ‘shooting yourself in the foot’ territory. The [Town] workers as well as their boss claim it’s maintenance costs, but the cost of removal is never mentioned.
They have not only removed the bench and bin with a crew of city workers, they have busted up and removed the concrete platforms and support structures that held them. So how much did all that cost?
I have actually never seen a city crew down here in the 7 years we have lived here, doing any maintenance work on the benches. If wood slats were the problem with the benches why not leave the benches and replace the wood slats with composite ones – end of maintenance problem. If they are going to replace the benches they now have to buy new ones, replace the concrete pads and holders for the waste bins and then install them.
Our neighbour bought one of the so called ‘high maintenance’ benches for $100.00 and it is immaculate. I don’t know if this rush to austerity in a town that depends on tourism is driven by the town council, or the works department is under pressure to trim their budget, but these moves are definitely not people friendly.
Faith and David Robertson, Qualicum Beach
The day after the September 8, 2021 Council meeting, an Eaglecrest resident communicated the following concerns to the Town Council about the removal of the benches:
Mr. Mayor and Councillors,
This email is intended to state what I had intended to say after the discussion on the removal of benches concluded. My impression was that no member of Council was aware of the benches being removed until the phone calls, emails, etc. started to arrive. If my impression is correct, the Town has a significant problem.
Councillor Harrison attempted to defend the actions of “staff” by stating on Facebook that policy, though old, was written in such a way that “staff” had no choice but to remove the benches. There was no room for “staff” to apply common sense. He claimed they could be fired if policy was not followed. This was a new one to me and, if correct, very sad that policy trumps common sense!
The mayor was correct in stating the public deserves to know who initiated this action and why. I think the word “transparency” was used.
Councillor Filmer was also correct with his remarks. Many benches were simply removed and they can be replaced just as simply.
With Councillor Westbroek’s motion, he used the words to replace “where appropriate”. Five benches were removed near my home. In my opinion, two do not need to be replaced. In each case, they are directly in front of homes but on town right-of-way. I think the two were related to previous bus stops.
This matter is a big deal because it raises the question, “Who is driving the bus?” How could an action like this happen without the knowledge of Council? Furthermore, how could this action be taken without one word, not one word mentioned in any of the town’s communication tools? A cynic might conclude those tools only serve to tell “good news stories”. In this case, people wondered are the benches gone? Are they being refinished or replaced?
In closing, I want to thank Councillors Westbroek, Skipsey, and Filmer for opposing the “paralysis by analysis” syndrome. Stupid actions should be acknowledged and quickly corrected.
Lance R. Nater