After Dave Aker told his staff at the East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation Department to weed a flowerbed near City Hall Wednesday, he said he “wasn’t supposed to do that.”
But the flowerbed across DeMers Avenue from City Hall had been filled with weeds crowding the blooming perennial flowers that had been planted in previous years.
“It looked too bad. I didn’t want to let it go like that,” said Aker, superintendent of city Parks and Recreation.
Aker said he “wasn’t supposed to” weed the flowerbed because of an East Grand Forks City Council decision last year to cut flowers out of the city’s budget this year -- and as of Wednesday, some confusion still surrounded how the flowerbeds will be maintained in compliance with city code.
“We’re not supposed to do that. We’re not supposed to help with the flowerbeds,” because of the City Council’s decision, Aker said, despite having his staff weed one flowerbed Wednesday.
But City Administrator David Murphy said the city will be weeding the flowerbeds around town, there just won’t be any new flowers planted.
“This is the first year we didn’t have the flowers in the budget,” Murphy said. “It’s a learning curve.”
The City Council’s decision last year, with some other cuts, kept the city’s overall budget increase at 5 percent after Mayor Lynn Stauss vetoed a larger budget increase.Community concern
Since then, some community groups, including the East Grand Forks Heritage Foundation, offered to maintain a couple of flowerbeds. With some city officials, the heritage center raised money to hang flowers in baskets downtown and to plant flowers near the elk statue on DeMers Avenue.
But the heritage center does not have enough donations or volunteers to maintain every flowerbed in town, said Teri Hammarback, vice president of the heritage center.
“There will be lots of weeds all over our town,” because of the city’s decisions, she said.
Murphy said that’s not true. The city will keep its flowerbeds in compliance with city code, he said.
East Grand Forks city code prohibits any weeds or grass growing taller than six inches. It also prohibits “uncontrolled, uncultivated growth of annuals and perennials plants.”‘A tough thing’
Aker said he was uncertain about what his department should do because the City Council’s decision seemed to vary from city code.
“It’s a tough thing,” Aker said. “We got one hand saying we should do that, and the other hand saying we shouldn’t.”
As of Wednesday morning, he said, his department had only weeded the flowerbed near City Hall.
City Council President Mark Olstad said the council’s decision about the flowers did not include any variance or violation of city code, and the city should be weeding the flowerbeds to stay in compliance with the law.
Olstad, who said he was in favor of keeping flowers in the budget, added the council will likely reconsider some of this year’s budget cuts while planning next year’s city budget.
“Next year, with the budget, we’ll take a good look at it,” he said.
Hammarback said she wishes the city would just replant the flowerbeds this year.
“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s just silly. Our gardens used to be beautiful,” she said.
Aker said he understands the money isn’t in the budget this year, but he hopes that changes in the future.
“I hope next year the flowers are with us,” Aker said.