Kirklanders can continue to stop and smell the flowers after the City Council recently approved funding for the downtown flower pot program.
The motion, passed at the March 20 regular meeting, asked city staff to draft a fiscal note for up to $13,100 to purchase 40 self-watering flower pots for the program, which the Kirkland Downtown Association (KDA) operates.
“We feel like it was a huge win-win for everyone,” said Barbie Collins Young, executive director of the KDA.
The current flower pots need daily watering and maintenance during summer months, which left the KDA with a $10,000 deficit for the program. The self-watering pots will reduce water usage by 80 percent and eliminate the daily watering and maintenance costs.
“It’s a nice solution and I think it’s a long-term solution that is economical for the KDA and the city,” said Council member Tom Neir at the meeting. “I think your hard work in getting this flushed out and analyzed is very appreciated.”
The new pots maintain a water reservoir within the pot that slowly feeds water to the roots from below. Excess water is drained out, which prevents overwatering and partially combats weeds.
The current downtown flower pots have been in Kirkland for about 25 years and the KDA took over flower pot operations 20 years ago, when the city lacked funding for the program.
According to a KDA survey on a local Facebook page, the community widely supported the flower pots and is in favor of preserving them.
“I did this research on the ‘Be Neighborly’ Facebook site,” Young said. “The community came back with about 98 percent saying that these are vital to keeping our downtown looking beautiful.”
The KDA maintained the pots successfully for numerous years and continued the flower pot sponsorship program. The program allows locals to sponsor and dedicate a flower pot for $250 to $500 per pot, depending on the size.
“It’s a great way to support the community either with a business or community member,” Young said. “It’s also a great way to honor or memorialize a loved one.”
A steady decrease in sponsorships also contributed to the program’s deficit in recent years.
“[With] the excitement and attention that the new pots will bring, I think we can definitely get every one of those pots sponsored,” Young said. “Once we do that, we can take a look at other project that we can take on, maybe even hanging baskets.”
The council approved the motion unanimously, but slightly disagreed on where the funding should come from. The council special projects fund would cover the costs, but Council member Dave Asher requested that city staff look to fund the purchase through tourism development funds.
“We need to start looking at providing support to our commercial areas,” Asher said at the meeting. “Can we do an interfund loan?”
The fiscal note would qualify for funding through the Tourism Development Committee (TDC), but wouldn’t be available until June, when the TDC allocates the 2019 funding cycle. An interfund loan would essentially borrow future money from the 2019 cycle.
Council member Penny Sweet said an interfund loan would be a disservice to the TDC by assuming what the committee would recommend months before the funds are allocated. Asher then pointed out the purchase could be funded at a later time by tourism money before Council member Toby Nixon said the purchase would be funded by the special projects fund, which has about $150,000.
The final motion will come back to the council for approval on April 17 after city staff explore potential funding through the TDC.
City staff plans to monitor the self-watering pots’ success for potential use in city-maintained programs.
“We know the community has stated that these are very important and I think it’s one of the little things that mean the most,” Young said. “The downtown is really the living room for our entire city and the vibrancy, color and life that they bring is huge.”