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Aaron the Heron in a holding pattern

Town of Barrhead councillors table decision, unable to overcome deadlock

BARRHEAD – It will be a while before Aaron the Blue Heron can peek his beak out in public again. 

On June 14, Town of Barrhead councillors decided to table a decision on what to do with the municipal mascot statue after two successive motions failed to pass after coming to a deadlock. 

The first motion (by Coun. Rod Klumph) to purchase a six-foot-eight-inch bronzed blue heron statue for no more than $60,000, using Aaron as the model, was defeated after a 3-3 vote. Mayor Dave McKenzie, Coun. Rod Klumph and Coun. Ty Assaf voted in favour, while Coun. Dave Sawatzky, Coun. Dausen Kluin and Coun. Anthony Oswald voted in opposition. Coun. Don Smith was absent. 

A second motion by Sawatzky to spend $6,000 to clearcoat the Aaron the Heron statue was also defeated in a 3-3 vote. Sawatzky, Kluin and Oswald voted in favour while McKenzie, Assaf and Klumph voted in opposition. Assaf then moved to table the motion to a later meeting as it was clear they would not be able to solve the impasse. 

Aaron has been off his regular perch (at the corner of 50th Street and 49th Street) for more than a year after being deemed in disrepair. 

At their March 23, 2021, meeting, following an in-camera session, councillors instructed administration to prepare a request for proposal for Aaron's replacement after deeming the statue unrepairable. 

The town commissioned Trygve Seland in 1984 to create Aaron, and his identical twin brother, to be used as a stand-in when Aaron was in the shop getting touched up. Aaron's twin became a fixture at the Barrhead Regional Aquatics Centre after its completion in 2017. 

Before the meeting, the Barrhead Leader asked McKenzie about what happened to the town's plans to hold a contest asking for a design of a new blue heron statue to replace Aaron. 

He noted when the municipality originally put the statue to tender to ask for concepts from artists but said they did not receive any submissions. 

In council’s information package, it stated that the 2022 Capital Budget council included $60,000 for the purchase of a new blue heron statue. 

However, corporate services director Jennifer Mantay stated that councillors at the budget retreat dropped the budget to $6,000 to shellac Aaron, suggesting that they delay purchasing a new statue until 2025 and bumping the replacement budget to $80,000. 

She added that if council chose to replace the statue this year, the funds would need to come from the general capital reserve. 

"I think a bronzed statue would be a good move," McKenzie said at the meeting. "It is going to last a long time without the need to have a yearly or bi-yearly upgrade, which is extremely expensive." 

Sawatzky said council should stick to what they decided during their budget retreat. 

"It is a lot of money to spend, and we made the decision only two months ago, and I think we need to stick by it," he said. 

Oswald agreed, saying he was surprised that the work had not already been completed. 

"We approved it (the shellacking) a month-and-a-half ago. It (Aaron) should already be back, and the money spent," he said. 

Assaf disagreed, saying, "If we have the money in our reserves, let's get it done and out of the way.  

"I'm not in favour of constantly having to patch and move on," he said. 

Assaf added that given inflation, he doubted that they could replace the statue in three years for $80,000. 

McKenzie agreed, adding that given the two quotes they received, the replacement bronze statue would come in under the $60,000 budget. 

One of the quotes, from an Edmonton-based firm, came in for $52,189, while the other, from a Calgary company, was for $40,000 to $45,000. 

Both quotes would use Aaron to create the mould. 

Parks and recreation director Shallon Touet noted that additional work would be needed to create the fine detail in the mould to simulate the plumage, et cetera and was not sure how much that might add to the bills. 

Assaf added that he did not like postponing the purchase of a new statue to 2025. 

"That's three years of potential restoration work. This year it's $6,000, next year the price will likely rise, perhaps to $10,000. And there could be another year on top of that," he said. "In 2025, it will also be a new council, and they may have something else in mind." 

Sawatzky countered that during next year's budget deliberations, council could decide to move the purchase to 2023. 

"That way we are not committing a new council to something they don't agree with," he said. "I just think that two months ago, we all sat around a table and agreed on a decision, and I think we should stick with it." 

Assaf argued that during the budget retreat, they also asked administration for additional information so they could potentially decide to replace the statue this year. 

Klumph said he also favoured going with a new bronze statue sooner than later due to inflation but was concerned that the potential quality of the work, noting the RFD did not include information about the companies. 

McKenzie said regardless of the company they choose, quality would not be an issue, adding the Calgary company created the statues for the Fallen Four Memorial Park in Mayerthorpe. 

Kluin asked where they would install the new statue, suggesting that Aaron's current perch isn't ideal. 

"We are looking at Gazebo Park," Touet replied, adding the statue would be installed on the same pad that was used to host the town's Christmas tree. "So, when someone is taking a picture, you would see the bird, full-on with the gazebo in the background, two iconic images of the Town of Barrhead." 


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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