WATCH: A Sooke woman is fighting back after being asked for hefty renewal fee to save a park bench dedicated to her mother. A decade ago, she helped raise $1600 for the memorial bench on Whiffin Spit. Now the municipality is telling her she has to pay again or the plaque will be removed.
Memorial benches are often a way for loved ones to cope and remember. The community of Sooke rallied to raise $1,600 eleven years ago for a bench at Whiffin Spit park to commemorate Judy Jamison a valued member of the community and a dedicated volunteer.
“Judy was a dear, dear friend to a lot of people not just me. Plus she has her children that walk down and see the bench” said Linda Lex who fundraised the money through a garage sale.
Now an additional $2,000 by Jan. 31 and every ten years is required to keep it. A policy that was not in place back when the bench was purchased.
” I just feel this is a money grab,” said Lex.
Council voted in the new policy in January of 2014 and then the family got a letter right before the holidays finding out about it for the very first time.
They said that they were going to take the plaque off the bench and hold it in Sooke?s office for us until we decided where we wanted it to go because they were going to release the bench to new users at more of a cost than I had paid in the first place,” said Lex.
This kind of renewal policy is not unheard of. In the municipality of Esquimalt, John Pitts had a memorial table made in memory of his late wife and he says at the time of purchase it was clear to him it was only for a decade.
” There was paperwork that I had to fill out that covered the plan I wanted to buy and that it would expire in ten years with the option to renew,? said Pitts.
Unlike in this case where Lex says she was never told or asked to sign anything.
” I signed nothing to say that this was for ten years or anything I just went down with a person that said where would you like the bench put,? said Lex.
Judy’s daughter Brandy Rittaler put a picture of the letter on social media where she received an outpouring of support which even caught the eye of council.
“The family has raised the issue but what it?s done to council is told us that there is a need for better communication and review of our policy. Clear and simple” said Sooke Councillor Kevin Pearson.
He adds, the issue will be discussed at the next council meeting on Dec. 11.