Simms proposes ‘fix it and bill them’ policy for utilities

Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms says he is ready to ‘go to war’ to get Newfoundland Power and other utility companies to clean up their utility boxes and other infrastructure that has been tagged by graffiti artists.
Simms didn’t mince words when he delivered the message at last week’s public council meeting. The issue came up during discussion of council’s ‘Out of the Box – Traffic Box Project.’
Deputy Mayor Jim Locke, who chairs the council committee that oversees the program, noted some 10 to 12 traffic boxes, which house the equipment used to operate traffic lights, were painted by local artists last year, including Councillor Paula Tessier, who painted a traffic box at the corner of Ruth and Commonwealth. “And they look great,” Locke said.
The City and the Association for the Arts in Mount Pearl, which coordinates the program, are taking proposals from artists interested in participating this summer. “We have a lot of talent here and so we’re looking forward to beautifying all these boxes,” Locke said. Not only does it dress up the neighbourhoods, it also cuts down on graffiti “tagging,” he noted.
Simms, who has been a big proponent of the program, agreed. “It’s really good,” said the mayor. “We need to expand on it where we can. But I have to say one of the things I am particularly frustrated with – and I think we have to bring in a strategy on it – are all of the boxes that are not ours. I’m thinking to the utility boxes that are owned by the Newfoundland Powers and the telephone companies. They are in a disastrous state. It’s the only word to describe it.”
Simms said he recently received an e-mail from a resident complaining about the state of two boxes near his property. “I believe if there is a mechanism available to us as a City to reach out to our corporate community and tell them ‘Paint these now,’ we should do it. And if they don’t, we should have the power to do it and to bill them. There is no hesitation on my part.”
Evidence shows, Simms added, that if you remove graffiti right away, it helps to quickly end the spread of more graffiti. The mayor acknowledged that it’s probably impossible to have artists paint every utility box in the city.
There are a couple of utility boxes on the corner of Ruth Avenue and Michener Street, Simms pointed out, “that are so unbelievably disgusting and they’ve been that way forever. And I believe it’s time for us to tap these people on the shoulder and say ‘If that’s not painted by Thursday, the City is going to paint it by Friday and we’re going to send you a $2,000 bill - your choice.’ And get it done. And it’s all over the city now. I doubt if there is a single one of these boxes that hasn’t been vandalized in this manner.”
Simms said he loves the Out of the Box program and the artistry is amazing.
“They (the utility companies) should do the same,” said Tessier.
Councillor Dave Aker said he is bothered by the number of super mail boxes in the city and the graffiti being sprayed on them. “The problem with Canada Post,” he said, “is that we probably don’t have as much clout.”
Aker said when the corporation was “selling” the idea of super mail boxes, one of their supposed attributes was that they are hard to spray with paint. Aker said it would be worth the while of city inspectors to look at the mailboxes on Michener Avenue. The corporation should be given a list of boxes that have to be cleaned and held to the same standards as the utilities, he added.
“I’m with you,” said Simms. “I just believe that we need to put a deadline on it. And we need to be prepared to do it ourselves. It’s not enough to just go to them and say we want you to do it and have them pay lip service… We need them to know that they’ve got four days or five days to get it fixed and that they need to work in partnership with us because they’re going to get tagged again and the first people to see that will be us – the people who can fix it first. And we almost need to dedicate some resources to it that they pay for.”
Locke said his understands the frustration and his committee will reach out to the “corporate partners’ about the issue. “Once they’re painted (by the artists) they are generally left alone,” Locke repeated.

Posted on June 24, 2015 .