City seeks to address sidewalk memorials, graffiti

City seeks to address sidewalk memorials, graffiti

PAWTUCKET – City Councilor Melissa DaRosa says she understands the trauma that motivates people to set up memorials to loved ones lost to violence or car crashes, but she believes there must be another solution to the messy situation the city is finding itself in as a result.

These shrines tend to grow, she said, with candles, flowers, and even nip alcohol bottles placed on public property and create both an unsightly look for the city and a safety hazard for students who walk to school. In some spots, chairs and even trash cans have made an appearance.

“That’s just not what I want for the community,” she said.

DaRosa, during last week’s City Council meeting, asked that a letter be sent to Zoning Director William Vieira asking him what policies the city has in place for such issues and asking what kind of resources could be put toward maybe helping these residents remember their loved ones in a better way.

Some memorials on public property are prettier than others, said DaRosa, who said she has three such setups near her home. She said she doesn’t want to just have the city rip everything down, but if there is some other way to bring comfort that is better for the city as a whole, she’s all for it.

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She said the city might partner with its arts commission on some new type of effort, including a painting near a current memorial site or some sort of central wall where people can come to pay tribute to lost loved ones. Councilor Tim Rudd said local artist Paris Fisher might be the one to talk to about such an effort.

DaRosa thanked Vieira for his letter responding to her separate request on graffiti and how the city responds to it, but she said she’d also like to see something done about these makeshift memorials.

Councilor Terry Mercer said the city doesn’t have a policy on such efforts currently, but should have one. He said the city’s community liaison should get together with the DPW on some sort of answer to the issue.

Councilor Michael Araujo said he agreed on the safety issue presented by the items being placed in sidewalks and that they don’t make for a good look, saying officials need to balance being sensitive and looking out for the city as a whole. He said plantings could also possibly be utilized as a sort of more attractive memorial to those lost.

Councilor Mark Wildenhain, commenting on the Vieira letter regarding graffiti, asked that the council send a letter back to him stating their desire to have the city provide property owners who are cited for graffiti on their buildings with information on the products the city uses to address graffiti on its property. If the city is going to be citing property owners for the actions of others that are out of their control, he said, the very least officials can do is take this step to help them get through the situation.

In his letter on graffiti, Vieira said property owners have 30 days to address graffiti, receiving a second notice of an additional 30 days followed by a court date around 14 days later. If they don’t show up and the graffiti has not been removed, they receive another court date of 14 days. Failure to show up for the second court date results in daily fines.

“The Zoning Department always makes an effort to prioritize graffiti removal and work with the owners so that it is taken care of within a reasonable time,” he wrote to the council. “Individuals who do not have the means to remove or paint over the graffiti, we would refer them to DPW for possible assistance.”