Flowers may be cut

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The city of Austin will attempt to keep the flower program alive by cutting 75 percent of its funding and raising $16,000 by noon of Jan. 26.

The Flower Program for 2003 was a topic of discussion at Tuesday's council work session.

Being that the flowers are planted in mid-January so to be ready by May, ordering amounts are due in January.

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Mayor Bonnie Rietz presented the item, explaining last year cost was $64,000.

In light of the financial situation the city will soon be dealing with, Rietz suggested reducing the flower expense by 50 percent.

"In these tough times, I think it's important for the city to maintain certain programs and be prudent," Rietz said.

With that amount, flowers would only be put around Mill Pond and Main Street and not on Fourth or Third avenues, Rietz said. The amount would cover labor and maintenance of the flowers.

Council member Mickey Jorgenson said the flowers add to the community and people notice it.

"It beautifies the city," Jorgenson said.

The flower program, which is going on its seventh year, was set to replace the trees that were taken down because of bird problems, said Dennis Maschka, the city's park and recreation director.

However, not all on the council were in agreement to continue the program.

"I think we should bite this bullet right now and get rid of the flowers," said council member At Large Wayne Goodnature, explaining that the city will be facing some tough financial decisions.

He said the council will be looking at issues of personnel this summer and next fall.

"I think people will know and remember the cuts we have made, but they'll also remember how we went about doing it," Goodnature said.

Tracey Chamberlain, 3rd Ward council member and Pete Christopherson, 2nd Ward council member, favored the idea of getting rid of the program.

"I can see both sides of it, but if I had to decide I would go for less," said Lynn Koch, 1st Ward council member.

The council decided to hold the decision until Monday. Rietz will seek the community's help in raising $16,000. If the amount is accomplished the council would possibly match the amount with $16,000.

"I liked the flowers from the beginning. This is absolutely going to break my heart, but I am ready to do what I need to do," Goodnature said.

Those who are interested in donating to the program can make out checks to the city of Austin and send them to Austin City Hall, 500 Fourth Ave. NE, Austin, MN 55912. Pledges will also be accepted and can be sent to Austin's Director of Administrative Services Tom Dankert at

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at