Memorial benches have been in the spotlight recently after the District of Sooke implemented a new policy, asking donors who already have benches to pay an additional $2,000 to keep it dedicated to their loved one. Sooke cites maintenance costs as the reason behind the change; however, bench owners have complained that they received no notice of the policy change and are upset that their original commitments aren’t being honoured.
Many municipalities are currently facing the issue of how to cover maintenance costs for memorial benches and other memorial park furniture.
Up until recently, Oak Bay didn’t have a memorial bench policy, but after spending three months annually maintaining the park furniture, it became evident that a change was necessary. They are currently implementing a policy that will see terms attached to new memorial furniture going forward, while honouring their open-ended commitment to past donors.
“The new policy will only affect donations going forward. The money for past benches was given in good faith and we will respect and honour our commitment to the families who have given these donations to the municipality,” says Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “We realize how important it is to families who have had a loved one die, to be able to go to the special memorialized spot that is meaningful to the family.”
Getting a memorial bench requires a $3,000 donation. The new terms for memorial furniture will be 15 years, or 10 years for furniture that is located in an exposed location – while the wood has excellent longevity, the sea salt corrodes the rebar that is used in the cement for support.
Chris Hyde-Lay, Manager of Parks Services, says that Oak Bay is approaching the 300 mark for benches and notes that most of the decent locations are taken. He recommends going with one of the other available options for memorializing a loved one within the municipality: a tree (approx. $500), a picnic table ($3,200), an ornamental flower planter with seasonal rotation of flowers ($3,800), or a water fountain ($7,000). With the new policy, the memorial furniture will be assessed after the 10- or 15-year term is up and a renewal cost will be set based on the condition. There will be no renewal charge for those that already have benches, just those moving forward from today.
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