Groups looking to promote cultural and community events in the city will have to find a new method of doing so in 2013.
City Council has created an ordinance outlawing banners over public roads starting Jan. 1.
Councilor Michael McGonagle said putting up banners in the past has cost the city about $600 each time because Haverhill provides help from the Public Works Department.
“We did research with surrounding towns and found that we were the only city around doing so,” McGonagle said of providing the help to organizations. “They got out of this business, so we had to find a way to get out of the business.”
McGonagle said the city will continue to allow groups who had already filed paperwork to raise the banners from now until the end of the year, but they will have to pay a $200 fee to help cover the cost of labor. McGonagle expects some groups that had filed paperwork to put banners up later this year to withdraw their papers.
“I know groups will pay the fee this year,” said McGonagle, who is also president of the non-profit group Rebuilding Together Greater Haverhill. “But I’m not sure others will feel the same. I think that if I was given the opportunity to hang a banner for $200, I would look for an alternative.”
Marlene Stasinos runs the pumpkin festival at Silsby Farm on Salem Street during the fall and would usually hang a banner over South Main Street.
“It was a great way to see something that represents the city,” said Stasinos. “People would always remark to me how great those banners were.”
Stasinos believes that Haverhill shouldn’t be following the lead of communities that have taken similar measures.
“Haverhill shouldn’t try to be like all the other cities,” she said. “Haverhill is unique. We should try to keep that uniqueness .... They should help to promote local businesses in this city ... They have so much more to offer than other towns.”
Stasinos said she would be willing to pay a nominal fee to hang a banner in the future. She said she paid $800 for a banner that she would not be able to use anymore.
In the past, the city would waive the fee for non-profit groups to put up the banners. City workers would then spend two hours putting up and taking down each banner. The banners were hanging primarily across South Main Street near Bradford Square.
The city is currently looking at alternative ways for groups to promote events. One solution involves erecting a pole system 8 to 10 feet high on city land to display banners. Groups would have to go through a similar application process as in prior years.
Public Works Director Michael Stankovich is in charge of scouting locations for the new structure. McGonagle said GAR Park, Riverside Park and the Merrimack Street parking garage are being considered.
“If they could fit it in a spot like GAR Park where everyone sees it, then that would help,” Stasinos said. “I don’t think people would see it hanging off of the parking garage. I really thought it was cool that people would hang banners across the street. I’m bummed they won’t do it anymore.”