Watertown City Council majority votes to remove concrete planters

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 5:50 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The controversial concrete planters in front of the KeyBank building in downtown Watertown are going away. That decision came Tuesday night after a majority of city council members said stopping that part of the streetscape project is an emergency.

The discussion got heated during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“The city has a habit of taking parking spaces away. Court Street is a good example, right on Public Square where Avon Shoe store is. A lot of those spaces disappeared,” said Watertown City Council Member Lisa Ruggiero.

A majority of council agreed Tuesday night that stopping the project qualified as an emergency, allowing the topic to come back up for a vote, after already getting discussed at other meetings.

“It is an emergency now because the concrete is now being poured, and it’s going to cost the city more money than it did two weeks ago,” said Ruggiero.

Ruggiero and fellow council members Cliff Olney and Patrick Hickey want the planters taken out and parking put back in. There’s a $40,000 expense the city will have to swallow. Then there’ another $4,000 to redesign the project.

Council Member Sarah Compo Pierce and Mayor Jeff Smith didn’t believe this is an emergency.

It was quite the discussion as things got heated between the Smith and Olney.

Bobby Ferris, one of the people who owns the KeyBank building, says he is just glad that parking spaces will be in place of the planters, and it is better to remove them sooner rather than later.”

“The only thing that really matters is trying to get the parking spots back for the people downtown, for the merchants downtown, the faster you can stop it the better it’s going to be, the less costly it’s going to be,” said Ferris.

More concrete was scheduled to be poured on Thursday, but because of council’s vote that now won’t happen.