Last updated: August 25. 2013 6:17AM - 266 Views

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LIMA — Two city blocks and one absent city councilman.

That was the difference Thursday at a City Council’s Public Works Committee between a decision and a delay on $30,000 for maintaining the downtown’s Streetscape landscaping.

Earlier this year, the city included $30,000 in the budget for the maintenance but delayed spending it until the Public Works Committee discussed how the money would be spent.

Public Works Director Howard Elstro’s proposal would spend about $21,000 of the money on labor and the rest on nursery stock replacement, equipment and supplies.

Committee member and 5th Ward Councilwoman Teresa Adams motioned to approve the plan for this year with a review for future budgets, but Committee Chair and 1st Ward Councilman Kurt Neeper didn’t agree with the boundaries of the project, and so didn’t second the motion. Third committee member and 6th Ward Councilman Derry Glenn was expected at the meeting but absent, so Adams’ motion died for lack of a second. The committee plans to meet again next week on the issue so it can forward a recommendation to council for a full vote.

Elstro’s plan would cover downtown from North to Elm Streets and from Elizabeth to Union streets, the area also covered by the Streetscape refurbishing from two years ago. Neeper wanted a narrower boundary from north to south, from High to Spring streets, closer to Town Square, which is actually maintained as a city park.

The city administration originally asked for $46,000 for the work. Downtown business owners lobbied Finance Committee for the money during budget hearings earlier this year.

Neeper has said in the past he doesn’t agree with the spending and Thursday had advocated for Downtown Lima Inc. to use the $30,000 to privately contract for the maintenance. Neeper said the work could be done at a cheaper price privately. However, Downtown Lima Inc. Assistant Director Fred Barrington said the group previously sought an estimate for the work and it was $57,000.

In past years, the Gardeners of Lima have planted flowers downtown. The plan to maintain the flowers, bushes and trees has been haphazard in recent years; some years volunteers take the project on, but then can’t maintain the commitment, Parks and Recreation Director Ric Stolly said. In other years, the city has used federally funded Experience Works employees.

The Gardeners used to do more of the work, but their membership has declined and the average age in the group has increased. The Gardeners don’t want to plant flowers if they’re not going to be kept alive through the season, Stolly said.

Stolly and Elstro said having the city commit to maintaining the landscaping could open doors to other public-private partnerships with people willing to help. Elstro also said keeping the downtown maintained through the spring and summer is important to residents; he and Mayor David Berger receive regular phone calls from people complaining when the appearance is less than tidy.

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