Leadership program seeks money for community garden fence

Leadership program seeks money for community garden fence

Less than two weeks after a demonstration garden opened to the
public on Seventh and Eigleberry streets, vandals have tagged a
bench with graffiti and someone dropped a steak knife amidst the
garden plants.
Less than two weeks after a demonstration garden opened to the public on Seventh and Eigleberry streets, vandals have tagged a bench with graffiti and someone dropped a steak knife amidst the garden plants.

On Monday, the Leadership Gilroy program that built the garden asked the Gilroy City Council to fund a wrought-iron fence after getting estimates ranging from $17,800 to $21,000. City staff said the city may have to spend more if it must pay workers prevailing wage for that work, and the council decided to address the issue at its next meeting, giving time for Leadership Gilroy and city staff to gather more information.

“I want to see if there is identifiable funding that we may be not aware of right now,” Mayor Al Pinheiro said.

The demonstration garden, which opened to the public on June 5, includes hundreds of plants and planter boxes and provides learning opportunities for adults and youth about health, landscaping, gardening and food preparation. Eventually, some of its produce is slated to be sold at a future Gilroy farmers’ market.

Pinheiro asked Leadership Gilroy to come up with more bids for the fence project. The leadership program recruits up to 20 people each year to develop leadership and problem solving skills while working on a community project. The group raised about $30,000 to $35,000 in money, goods and services to create the garden.

Representatives of the program said Monday that when it comes to fencing, time is of the essence.

“I’d like to see that (the garden) remains viable, sustainable and safe,” said Mark Turner, a pastor at South Valley Community Church and member of the Leadership Gilroy class of 2010.

Judy Hess, a 2002 Leadership Gilroy alum who is serving as garden manager, stressed the need to have a fence up as soon as possible.

“A lot of neighbors say this garden will not be here come produce time if there is not a fence around it,” Hess said.

A bench in the garden was tagged with graffiti June 9 and a teen who was part of an internship program found a knife in the garden on Monday, she said.

Still, building a fence may not be as easy as it sounds. Pinheiro said the city has various requirements for such projects. For instance, the fence cannot merely be chain link.

In addition, Kristi Abrams, city development center manager, said the city would have to pay the prevailing wages to whoever builds the fence. Councilman Perry Woodward wondered whether that actually was the case, and City Attorney Linda Callon said she would look into the matter.

A couple of council members also questioned spending money on the fence while the city is battling budget problems.

Councilman Dion Bracco, a Leadership Gilroy alum, said the program often has a hard time finding alumni to represent each of the classes once members are done with their one-year commitment. He questioned whether anyone would follow up to maintain the garden and make sure that a new fence would be opened and locked.

Councilman Bob Dillon, a 2002 Leadership Gilroy alum, said providing money for the fence sounded like a “gift of public funds.”

Both Hess and Turner responded that neighbors and Leadership Gilroy volunteers were committed to making the garden a success. A few members of the class of 2010 have formed a committee, and they will continue to stay involved in the project once the year is done, Turner said. The garden will remain on the site until the city comes up with enough money to build a center for the arts there. In the meantime, the former Salvation Army building, which stands next to the garden, is serving as an interim center for the arts.

“In our minds, this is going to be a 10-year project,” Turner said.

In the end, the council gave a 5-2 thumbs-up recommendation to city staff to further investigate options for funding the fence, with Dillon and Bracco dissenting.

The council will revisit the matter during its next meeting July 19.

“The longer we wait, the more this gift is going to be diminished,” Woodward said.

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