New benches first step in $2 million project

Friday, September 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:00 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Those looking to take a seat on a downtown public bench can now do so without worrying about splinters.

Six new black metal benches were put in on Ninth Street this week in anticipation of the Twilight Festival. The festival, which happens every Thursday night in September, annually draws hundreds of people to downtown Columbia.

“They have a cool Victorian look and they won’t splinter,” said Annette Kolling-Buckley of Columbia Books, Inc. as she watched a bench being installed near her shop on Thursday morning.

But this week’s installations did not go as smoothly as planned.

Parks development Superintendent Steve Saitta, who assisted workers in the bench installations, said the six were initially placed in the wrong locations.

“There was a bit of miscommunication between the field coordinators downtown,” said Saitta. The benches have since been relocated to their proper locations.

“We were given a map, but we didn’t see the dots,” said Roger Broadus of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department as he moved a bench to its proper location on Thursday morning.

The benches are part of the first phase of the Downtown Beautification project. The five-year, $2 million project is designed to give downtown Columbia a more unified look. Over the next year, the city’s remaining wooden benches will be replaced with the newer models at an estimated total cost of $30,921.

“They’ll last a long time,” said Dennis Long of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. “They’ll be pretty much maintenance-free.”

So far, the six new benches have replaced 11 wooden ones along Ninth Street. The phase calls for 32 metal benches to be strategically placed in the city’s growing business district.

The rest of phase one involves painting street-light poles black, installing black decorative trash can holders, nine newspaper corrals and 20 new bike racks.

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