PAA gets okay to create signage for 'The Vigil'

Published on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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Ever wonder about the meaning of the sculpture in the H Street Plaza? So do many other folks who pass through the city of Blaine. 

The Pacific Arts Association (PAA) wants to make sure people never have to guess at its meaning again, and approached city council on September 23 with a plan. “We’re here to talk to council about building an interpretive plaque for The Vigil,” said PAA director Kristi Galbraith. “I feel like it will be a welcome addition for visitors to know the story behind The Vigil.”

The Vigil, a statue of two women and a child, was created to honor the women and children who waited while the fisherman went off to sea to work. “It may be the only memorial in the world that pays tribute to the women who stay behind,” said Bruce Wolf, who originally spearheaded the movement to create the sculpture. “Since it’s been there, there’s been one major thing missing, and that’s the information about the statue. It’s a beautiful story.”

Wolf said he had met with community planning director Michael Jones and public works director Ravyn Whitewolf to put together a plan for what the plaque would look like and how it would fit in with the existing infrastructure. “It seems most appropriate to put it on the water side [of the statue] so people can look at it while they read about it,” Wolf said. “It’s going to be made out of bronze, and hopefully the city can find the funds to make an appropriate pedestal for it. We don’t care how it’s done, as long as it fits in with the whole project. We really want to show off our town.”

The plaque itself will be paid for by the Pacific Arts Association, and will be used as an opportunity for the PAA to raise money for the annual jazz festival, as donors who contribute $1,000 or more to the festival can have their names inscribed on the plaque. “The money is going to go to scholarships for kids who want to come to the camp but can’t afford it,” Wolf said. 

Hoisting what appeared to be a 3-foot by 4-foot sheet of plywood to the front of council chambers, Wolf said of the design, “It’s going to be large, dramatic and easy to read. We just need to know council is on board.”

A quick conference with other council members present at the September 23 meeting (council members Bonnie Onyon and Paul Greenough were absent) confirmed the approval. “I don’t think you’re going to have anybody with a negative point of view from this council,” mayor Harry Robinson said. 

Wolf said he hopes to have the plaque under construction soon. “We have the money to do it right now,” he said. 

The council was less quick to acquiesce to resident Ron Freeman’s request to add 11 feet of the Adelia Street right of way back to his property. 

Freeman had petitioned the city for permission to extend his property line into the 20-foot right of way in order to subdivide the lot, since it falls just short of the size requirements, but the public works department recommended that petition be denied.

“The standard right of way is 80 feet for this street classification,” Bullock said. Right of ways are measured in both directions from the median. “This proposal would create a substandard section of the right of way for this one block on what is already a straight and contiguous line.”

That would mean future upgrades to infrastructure and utilities could potentially be jeopardized. “There are situations where we need to use sections of right of way that appear overly wide,” Bullock said. “We recommend denial.”

Freeman was undeterred, and approached the council to ask them to reconsider.

“I would like the city to not deny the petition,” Freeman said in an address to the council. “The city will still retain easement rights for the right of way whether the property is vacated or not. It’s already my responsibility to maintain the property from the boundary to the sidewalk and we’re doing that. We were required to make an application for the full block and our purpose is to build two affordable, attractive homes there. I’m requesting you have a public hearing to consider the benefits.”

Bullock argued that easements were not the same as owning the property outright and that it might cause headaches for the city in the future if the petition were approved.

Owing to the absence of two council members, council member Dennis Olason suggested that the council delay action on the item until all members were present. The other members did not agree, and a motion for a public hearing was approved 5–0.

Before the meeting adjourned, the council voted to resurrect discussion on the planning commission’s proposal for minimum density levels for population growth in Blaine. “I think we should re-look at that,” council member Clark Cotner said. 

The council also voted to appoint Ken Ely as planning commissioner. Ely will take the place of Dave Gallion, who stepped down from his post in August. 

“We’re very grateful for the work Dave has done over the years, and the many hours he has spent working with the planning commission,” mayor Harry Robinson said at the September 23 meeting. “I think he deserves a round of applause.”