has sought help from the city in putting up new banners on downtown light posts, saying unexpected costs could scrap the plan prior to OpSail 2012 or even bankrupt of the organization.
The City Council unanimously agreed to request Mayor Daryl Finizio’s administration to discuss the matter with the to resolve the issue prior to the event.
Penny Parsekian, CEO of New London Main Street, said Public Works has not previously charged for the banner installation. Under an , however, organizations must pay up front for any city services that are used for events.
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Parsekian said the organization’s budget was set last year, before the executive order went into effect, and that the budget ends each year on a zero balance. She said the city initially charged $202 per banner for the installation of 55 banners ordered by sponsors, but agreed to cut the fee in half. She said the organization received permission to hang the banners through a private company, but later learned that the Public Works union would not allow this and that the department would charge an additional 30 percent in order to put the banners up in time for OpSail at a cost of about $9,000.
“The banner image is U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle and is intended to amplify the whole experience of the tall ships visiting the city for OpSail,” Parsekian said in a letter to the council. “Without your help, these banners could end up sitting in the lobby of our building in boxes, and sponsors would have to be refunded, bankrupting our organization.”
Councilors said they hoped to find a solution to the problem prior to the War of 1812 bicentennial, which will .
“This really brightens up the city,” said Councilor John Maynard. “It really dresses up the city nice, and I think it would be great to have these up for OpSail.”
Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop suggested that the city could seek concessions from the union or that the organization could pay some of the cost. Parsekian said the organization is strapped for cash at this point and would be unable to match costs.
“This was a complete surprise,” she said.
Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran said she was able to negotiate with a private company to put up banners for the and suggested that it is still possible to negotiate with the union.
“With OpSail/Sailfest so close, it might be of interest for them to do it,” she said.
Councilor Anthony Nolan said the city should be able to find savings by curtailing some services, such as going a weekend without paying overtime for workers to mow grass. He also suggested that Public Works may put the banners up in intervals to avoid overtime costs.
Council President Michael Passero said it was “disheartening” to see the issue come up within weeks of OpSail and said the administration should have addressed it before this point.
“It’s pretty obvious that there was no desire on the part of the administration to assist New London Main Street,” he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover said the administration will work to resolve the matter, but said it will likely involve some temporary cutbacks to make up the cost.
“There is a give and take,” she said.