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City to determine legality of commemorative bricks
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McMinnville officials are considering the fate of a popular downtown fundraiser. Legal counsel has been asked to determine the legality of the commemorative program.
During phase one construction on Main Street, the Main Street McMinnville organization’s Design Committee began a program that allowed residents to pay for engraving bricks or placing plaques on benches, streetlights and tree wells. Approximately $125,000 was given to the city from the effort.
McMinnville Public Works director Bill Brock says the fate of the commemorative program is one he would prefer elected officials make, given what may be an unpopular decision about a popular program.
“I’m looking for a little guidance,” Brock said. “When I tell you what it is, you probably won’t give me guidance. I have, on several occasions, been asked to donate city property to organizations.”
Any items purchased in the Public Works Department are considered city-owned property. No city employee has the legal right to make donations of city property. Brock says requests he has received for items such as bricks for its commemorative program make him the middle man.
“I kind of feel like I’m in the middle,” he said. “It boils down to us giving bricks to Main Street McMinnville, allowing them to engrave them and then, placing them downtown. I don’t feel like I have the authority to allow other people to make money on city property.”
The items are taken, engraved and given back. Alderman Jimmy Haley says it is not a donation, because the items are returned to the city.
“Main Street McMinnville donated $125,000 to the city for phase one,” Haley said. “Because the bricks are returned to the city, we are not donating the bricks to Main Street. Instead, you are giving the right to engrave.”
Alderman Junior Medley questioned if the city has any bricks currently available.
“We have about 50 bricks that can be engraved,” said Brock. “We also have others on Main Street that can be removed and engraved. If we are going to continue this program, I would rather the city be in charge of placing the bricks for liability reasons.”
Officials asked city attorney Tim Pirtle to look into what the city can legally do when it comes to commemorative downtown items. Specifically, can it allow Main Street McMinnville to do it?
When contacted by the Southern Standard, Main Street McMinnville treasurer Rachel Killebrew says the program is a product of, and was paid for by, the Design Committee.
“EG&G obtained grants for the beautification of downtown,” she said. “It was $125,000 short. We paid that. Since then, it has been our program for the beautification of downtown.”
Along with the funds donated, Killebrew says the organization spent 3,000 hours toward the program with all the proceeds going back into downtown for beautification.
“We spent 3,000 hours on this program,” Killebrew said. “Do you have any idea how much that would have cost the city? Also, we are a non-profit organization. All the proceeds from the program are put back into downtown for its continued beautification.”
Once Pirtle has concluded his research on the matter, his findings will be presented to officials for their consideration.