Aberdeen City Council discusses concerns about roundabout art

The Aberdeen City Council voted for the application for grant funding that would allow for art to be at the Market Street roundabout, but not all were for the idea.

Stacie Barnum, Aberdeen’s parks and recreation department director, brought up to the council a request for her to apply for a Grays Harbor Community Foundation grant for roundabout art “not to exceed $50,000.”

Barnum provided some background on it. Barnum said earlier in 2023, Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave had a committee formed to “set the criteria” for roundabout art. A request for a proposal draft would have been sent to the city’s Arts Commission.

As far as this potential grant goes, Barnum wanted to check all her boxes first before she applied. The first step was talking to the city council. She did so Wednesday night.

“I did not want to assume that the city council wants roundabout art,” Barnum said. “So before I write an application I wanted to bring this to you early. If you don’t approve for me to apply for the grant then I know you don’t want to do the roundabout art project.”

Safety was a big concern for the city council and that issue could have stopped the idea in its tracks.

Councilor Kacey Ann Morrison spoke on the issue.

“I actually got more feedback from people on this item than any other on our agenda, which was surprising to me,” Morrison said. “The overwhelming consensus is no. People do not want art in the roundabout and I tend to agree with that. $50,000, granted it’s a grant, but it’s a lot of money. I’d like to see that $50,000 applied elsewhere.”

While Morrison said she is not against art, she’s against art in the roundabout because “it’s a distraction.” She said she recently spoke to Aberdeen Police Chief Dale Green about the issue.

“Accidents overall, since the roundabout was installed, have been down by about half, I’d like to keep it that way,” Morrison said. “So, I’m gonna be a ‘no’ vote on this.”

After the meeting, Barnum provided a counter to Morrison’s point on safety.

“I’ve seen roundabouts in other areas,” Barnum said. “In our request for proposal, part of the review process includes review from the engineering department. That review is to make sure whatever art is selected or proposed wouldn’t be considered if it made it unsafe to use the roundabout.”

And as far as what some people have had issues with — people in their cars zipping through the roundabout at speeds much more than the 20 miles-per-hour limit, people not yielding properly, and other conflicts — Barnum said she hasn’t had any issues while driving through the roundabout. And Barnum takes the roundabout quite often.

“I’m not saying (those issues are) not happening but it sounds like based on the police department’s accident reports that we’ve seen a significant decrease in accidents in that intersection since the roundabout’s been put in,” Barnum said.

The roundabout was constructed between April 2022 and October 2022. When used properly, it creates a seamless path from downtown to east and north Aberdeen.

Councilor Liz Ellis asked about clarification on the cost regarding the project. Barnum said the proposed grant would pay solely for the art in the roundabout.

Barnum’s clarification also seems to provide a counter to Councilor Stan Sidor’s alternative to the art. Sidor suggested the city place plants in the roundabout instead of a man-made art piece. Barnum’s concern is about the added cost that might add to any art project.

“Mainly it’s I don’t believe there is an irrigation system put in the roundabout,” Barnum said. “And with our weather, we’re having longer droughts during the summer. So some of the shrubbery … it might have a difficult time surviving without an irrigation system there.”

Cost of an irrigation system would “depend on the location to the closest water line and it could get expensive,” according to Barnum.

“The 50,000 is just for the art work,” Barnum said. “The city is responsible for any utilities that are needed and that would include an irrigation system. My hope is we won’t need (an irrigation system).”

New trees

Barnum also made a request to the council — it was approved — to apply for a grant through Washington State Department of Natural Resources for 170 trees downtown, including a tree for each of the 13 empty tree wells.

The area in question for the grant, which is in the $125,000 range, is from Jeffries Street, on the west end of Aberdeen, to F Street. And then from north to south, the area refers to south of 1st Street to north of Heron Street.

Barnum said while some of the trees that need to be replaced are because of vandals, a lot of the trees are from “cars hitting them,” or from city work.

“In places like in front of (Aberdeen) City Hall, the trees were removed when the sidewalks were replaced and we hadn’t planted a tree yet,” Barnum said.

As far as the trees hit by cars, Barnum didn’t know that was such an issue.

“I didn’t realize how many people hit power poles and trees until my husband started working at PUD,” Barnum said.

State Majors Little League Tournament

Pioneer Park’s Failor Field in South Aberdeen has a unique and fun opportunity scheduled in July 2024.

Barnum was happy to present the good news to the council.

One year after the city finished remodeling Failor Field, Aberdeen will be able to hold the State Majors Little League Tournament. The tournament, from July 13-20, 2024, will host the 13 best 12U (12 and under) Little League teams.

The remodel cost $260,000, but it seems like it might pay for itself.

“We’ll have thousands of people coming in because of the coaches, the players, the parents, the grandparents,” Barnum said. “It’ll be 13 teams from all over the state of Washington for a seven-day tournament.

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at matthew.wells@thedailyworld.com.