Planters will stay, Winfield says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 22, 2009

Planting areas etched into Washington Street late in the administration of former Mayor Laurence Leyes will stay put, but will be better marked, Mayor Paul Winfield said Wednesday.

“None of them are being removed, but we are going to put reflective tape on the side so they actually serve the safety need they were designed for,” Winfield said.

Winfield made it known in early August he was in favor of removing about 20 flower beds from the outside lanes of Washington Street between Bowmar Avenue and Lee Street. He said there was a high number of complaints about cars striking the planters. However, after investigating the costs, Winfield said he decided it wouldn’t be wise to tie up city crews on removing the beds they’d spent the previous months creating. 

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“Right around $40,000 had been spent on those prior to me taking office, and it probably would have cost half that to take them out,” Winfield said. “I just didn’t believe it would be prudent to waste the taxpayers’ dollars undoing that work — even though a lot of residents wanted them popped out.”

The flower beds were one of many beautification efforts initiated after former Mayor Joe Loviza employed the city’s first-ever landscape architect. Leyens, who was ousted by Winfield in a landslide June 2 general election after serving two terms, increased the pace of the efforts in radials from the downtown area. Beyond sprucing up with additional trees, shrubs and flowers, the planters were installed to slow down traffic and keep cars from passing on the right of the two-lane thoroughfare, which has a 25 mile-per-hour speed limit.

Along with the tape being put on the planters, reflective striping will be applied to the outside lanes of Washington Street. The city’s road department will complete the work in the coming weeks, said Winfield, weather permitting. The reflective tape and striping will be placed on planters and the roadway between Bowmar Avenue and Lee Street, but will not be applied to downtown areas. While no planters will be removed, one will be altered.

“There’s one near the public library on Veto and Washington streets that protrudes a little further onto the street than the rest and is a problem for vehicles trying to turn onto Washington when they’re coming from the convention center. We’ve proposed shortening that one,” the mayor said.

Half of the flower beds measure about 15-by-8-feet, while the rest are longer and slightly more narrow. The city landscaping crew on Wednesday finished planting trees and shrubs in 10 of the beds that had until now gone unfilled.

“I think this is a good compromise,” Winfield said. “I’m glad we’re able to preserve and enhance the beautification of Washington Street and I believe we’ll be able to meet the safety concerns with the reflectors.”


Contact Steve Sanoski at