A recent District of Sooke letter requesting an additional $2,000 from those who bought memorial benches several years ago has left many confused.
Sooke resident Brandy Rittaler is one of them.
The letter is asking people who have bought a memorial bench to submit the money by Jan. 31 to “maintain the bench,” or the plaque will be removed and placed elsewhere.
Rittaler said $1,600 was fundraised in 2006 to buy a bench in honour of her mother, Judy Jamieson, who died 11 years ago, and she was very confused to receive a letter asking for another $2,000 to keep it there.
She decided to contact the district about the renewal policy, and found that she had bought the bench before the policy was implemented, and was never made aware of the price increase.
“I am so disappointed in the District of Sooke for these actions. It feels to me like a heartless money grab,” said Rattler. “I also feel the District of Sooke owes an apology to the people who have received these letters. They have caused more grief and confusion during a time of year many of us struggle with already.”
She explained that the district has been in contact with her, were “very apologetic” and are working to find a solution to the issue.
“I understand that the parks and benches need to be maintained, but I just think the whole thing could have been handled better and they could have given people a warning that the policy had changed,” said Rittaler. “I’m hoping the community will come together and find a better way to manage the policies for the future.”
Sooke mayor Maja Tait said she is empathetic to all parties concerned, and believes there has been some miscommunication that happened along the way to cause this issue.
“I feel sorry for the families who have been impacted, especially at this emotional time of year which is meant for celebrating and remembering family,” said Tait. “Council certainly doesn’t want to make it negative or difficult for anyone and unfortunately it seems like that is what has happened.”
She said a staff report will be brought forward at Monday’s council meeting, and that’s when they will having a meaningful conversation on how to make it right for the people involved.