City studies vinyl packaging for utility boxes

By Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald on March 10, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber A wrapped utility box is seen along the edge of Galt Gardens.

LETHBRIDGE HERALD[email protected]

The city council instructs the administration to investigate the costs and processes of establishing a vinyl box utility wrapping program here.
The motion, moved by Councilor John Middleton-Hope, says some utility boxes in the city are weathered and aged, making them unsightly. It was approved by an 8-1 vote on Tuesday.
In 2020-21, the city’s public art program partnered with the electric utility on a pilot project to install vinyl art wraps on downtown and Galt Gardens.
The administration is invited to return to the board through the Standing Cultural and Social Policy Committee with a report by November 8th.
According to Middleton-Hope’s motion, Airdrie and the communities of Fernie, Enderby and Armstrong in British Columbia have similar programs in place with power companies.
“I know of a community group that came forward a few years ago about packing utility boxes for their community in particular. It was declined by the city at that time. Subsequently, the city has clearly made inroads into examining other communities “across the province and in British Columbia that are using the wraps to enhance utility boxes,” Middleton-Hope said.
“Some of these communities have either hosted paintings from various boxes or they have gone to these envelopes,” he added.
“We did a pilot project. If any of you have wandered through Galt Gardens lately, there are a few that have been done,” the adviser told his colleagues.
“It’s an opportunity to improve our community rather than having these awful green boxes sitting there and rusting,” he added.
Councilor Ryan Parker said it was a good idea, adding that he had seen them in other communities.
“I don’t see a lot of downsides,” he added.
Deputy Mayor Belinda Crowson said she couldn’t support the motion, but was glad Middleton-Hope was actively promoting more funding for public arts because “as anyone familiar with arts programs knows public, the only thing that’s really holding them back, the only limit that they have to do more of these, is funding. So it’s actually a resolution that would get them more funding.
She said one of the reasons for opposing the motion was that “we are the council and our role is to govern, not to be operational.”
Crowson also said it is the responsibility of the public arts program and the public arts committee “to look at all areas of public art. They did a study on this, they did a pilot project. They are the ones who know what to do and what to come up with and I also want to make sure that we do things in a holistic and well thought out way so I would suggest we leave that to the artistic community.
Acting Mayor Rajko Dodic said “public art is the responsibility of the Allied Arts Council, so our role in governance is to ensure that funds that have been used to fund public art have been spent in a way appropriate so part of this resolution is to have the Allied Arts Council The Council let us know how the money was spent, where it was spent and what might happen in the future, what is a governance role and not an operational role, so I will support this resolution.
Mayor Blaine Hyggen also backed it up, saying it was a good idea and that he had heard about it over the past two years from people wanting to do something with the boxes which he said had the looks terrible in some areas.
Councilor Jeff Carlson also supported him.
“It does several things. In my mind, this recognizes the good work that the Allied Arts Council has done in our community. I think we’ve seen the outcome of some of these projects around downtown and I think we’ve all noticed how attractive and great they are,” Carlson said.
“It gives the opportunity to say ‘look how amazing. Do you want more? Here’s the price.’ So that opens the door to that opportunity.
Councilor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel also added her support.
“It’s great to see the interest in public art and to make sure we support it throughout our community. The boxes serve to visually enhance our downtown area and supporting our public art program is always something we should always strive to do.

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Jack L. Goldstein