City gets flowers funding request

$30,000 needed for annual setup, says business group

May 11, 2007|By Nina Sears | Nina Sears,Sun Reporter

The first of 274 planters and hanging baskets overflowing with petunias, lantanas and blue bacopa will start sprouting on the streets of Annapolis next week.

The annual flower display that greets parents arriving in anticipation ofthe Naval Academy's commissioning week is cheery, but it is not cheap.

Eight years after launching the flower basket program, the Annapolis Business Association says it can no longer contribute at least $60,000 a year to cover its costs and is asking the city to pay half.

"Our mission is to promote business," said Chance Walgran, owner of Laurance Clothing and an association board member. "We have other priorities that relate to business downtown."

Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire, a Democrat representing Ward 7, said he will submit a budget amendment at Monday's City Council meeting to put up the $30,000 this year. The city now contributes about $300, which is taken out of the $10,000 the city allots for public green space.

Shropshire said he has the votes for the amendment to pass.

"We do not want to see a lack of money for this project this summer," he said.

After this time, he hopes the business group will be able to "find another civic organization to help."

Other aldermen are not so sure about allocating the full amount to the program. Republican Alderman David H. Cordle Sr., Ward 5, said essential services for taxpayers and an aging infrastructure system require attention.

"We have a tight budget, and the funds could be better spent elsewhere," said Cordle.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, however, says the flowers' tourism value warrants funding.

"These flowers are a part of Annapolis," she said. "They have really added to the look and good feel of downtown."

The business association uses a large part of its budget to pay for the flower baskets.

Most of the funds are spent on daily maintenance, which includes pruning, fertilizing and watering the plants.

Outside of city funds, the association depended on fundraising projects, such as its annual Taste Buds event.

The association, however, has new priorities, such as bracing for the competition from Annapolis Town Center, which is now under construction in Parole, and the expansion of Westfield Annapolis Mall.

"It's not that we can't afford [the flower program]," Walgran said. "We just want to do other things."

The group recently hired a part-time executive director, Clare Vanderbeek, who said the organization needed to redirect its budget to increase marketing of historic downtown Annapolis.

She said if the city does not help fund the flower baskets, the association will seek other avenues, including corporate sponsorships and grants.

If the ABA is unable to find funding for the flowers, it expects to scale the program back next year.

"I would assume that we have half the pots on the street. We won't have as many flowers as we have had before," Walgran said.

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