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Monte council approves tourism funds to save flower baskets

The Montesano City Council approved $2,500 to help save the city’s signature dual hanging flower baskets throughout the downtown area.

The Montesano Chamber of Commerce announced they could no longer afford to continue the program and had been fundraising to figure out if the public still wanted the flowers.

The Chamber started paying for the baskets and the care two years ago when the city of Montesano discontinued the service.

Montesano Mayor Ken Estes said that the city couldn’t afford the expense because it proved too costly for the city, too. Estes said that they were forced to pay for the overtime of public works employees.

The council dipped into its tourism fund, provided by a tax on lodging services in the city.

City Administrator Kristy Powell said the city had budgeted to have $11,000 in the fund by the end of the year. There’s $4,600 in the pot now.

Councilman Chris Hutchings questioned the expense.

“We really don’t know if it brings anyone in but I don’t think our flower baskets are a destination for people,” Hutchings said, saying the tourism fund should be used to promote the city’s events, such as Festival of Lights or the summer events.

“We know people are coming into the city for those particular events,” Hutchings said. “How is it we’re able to use this money from this particular fund?”

Community Development Director Mike Wincewicz said that tourism tax dollars could be spent on downtown beautification projects.

“The flowers are intended to work as a welcome mat when you turn off the freeway and look up main street with our main street phases 1 and 2,” he said. “It’s an inviting, “welcome to Montesano” feel. Similar funding can be used for banners but we choose not to do that because of the seasonal changes of banners. Four times a year they come up and go down. Flower baskets are more equitable and we get five months out of them.”

The budget request was approved on a 6-1 vote with Hutchings the lone councilman voting against it.

“I know people like the flower baskets but I’d rather use it for actual events,” he said.