Free city service one more time

Sometimes you just have to do it. That was the correct conclusion reached by New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finzio when he stepped into a dispute over who should pay for hanging New London Main Street's Opsail banners.

The mayor ordered that the Public Works Department hang the banners without charging the non-profit group. But Mayor Finizio also put all event coordinators and parade committees on notice that the city cannot continue providing free services on demand. Money is tight, and civic and non-profit groups must figure into their fund-raising plans the cost of all service needs.

Since 2003 New London Main Street has used its banner program both as a fundraiser and to beautify the downtown. The attractive banners are sponsored by local businesses. In the past the city put them up.

But this year the Public Works Department, facing fiscal constraints, balked at providing the work free and took the position Main Street should reimburse the city for putting up the 55 banners. Penny Parsekian, Main Street CEO, said the group did not have the resources to do so. It considered using volunteers willing to lend the manpower and equipment, but the public works union objected, pointing to a contract provision that restricts all such work to city employees.

It appeared the banners, with their Coast Guard Barque Eagle illustration, would not go up in time for the OpSail festival July 6-9. The City Council then sent a letter to the administration asking it to make the installation a priority.

In making his announcement, Mayor Finizio pointed to the importance of the OpSail event and his desire to "respect the views of the City Council and nurture our co-operative working relationship."

If this helps the administration and council work more cooperatively, it's a banner outcome.

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