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City approves $8,000 to engrave Downtown tiles

Telling history on tiles ‘defies common sense,’ councilman says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Several engravings in Central Square will come with an $8,000 price tag. In a 3-1 vote Monday night the Auburn Urban Development Authority, which is made up of Auburn’s City Council members, granted $8,000 of redevelopment funds to the engraving of local names in several of the tiles, or pavers, in Central Square. Councilman Kevin Hanley voted no and Councilman Bill Kirby was absent. The original amount slated for this project was $18,000, according to Councilman Mike Holmes. According to Councilman Keith Nesbitt, the Streetscape History and Art Advisory Committee is still working on what names would be engraved on the tiles, how many names would go on a tile and how many tiles would be engraved. “We are kind of going back to the drawing board on that,” Nesbitt, chairman of the committee, said. “Now that they have given us a budget we will go back (and make those decisions).” In July the City Council voted down the committee’s recommendation to engrave the names of 10 people who founded the Central Square area on pre-existing tiles, so now other names may be added instead, Nesbitt said. Nesbitt said he would have to wait for the next committee meeting to develop a consensus about the tiles with fellow members. Nesbitt said the cost of the engraving is more expensive now, because the tiles are already in the ground. Last summer the thought was that Central Square would have an endurance theme, but when City Council members got negative reactions from the community, it formed the Streetscape Committee to come up with new ideas for the entire square, according to Nesbitt. These ideas included keeping some endurance theme elements, incorporating the river, the Gold Rush and paying tribute to the Nisenan people of the Maidu Native American tribe. However, because the square was already being constructed, the tiles were put into place and must now be engraved while in the ground, Nesbitt said. “There was money in the original budget for these tiles,” he said. “The tiles were going to be engraved before they put them in place. It’s just going to be a little more costly and a little more difficult to engrave in place, but it’s better than having no pavers in place and having an incomplete project.” Holmes said he hopes the tiles are engraved with the names of Central Square founders. “It gives us a chance to honor them in a certain way,” Holmes said. Holmes said he thinks $8,000 for the engraving is reasonable. “Originally there had been $18,000 set aside for it, and this comes out of our redevelopment authority funds,” he said. It was important to hammer down a budget number Monday night to allow the Streetscape Committee to move forward with the project, Holmes said. Hanley said he disagrees with the idea of portraying Auburn’s history through names on tiles, because he doesn’t think it would be an effective way to educate those walking by. “Our goal is to highlight aspects of the history of Auburn in each phase of the Streetscape project,” Hanley said. “I believe that the most cost-effective and interesting way to tell the history of our town, including the founders of the Central Square area, is to develop an interactive touch screen kiosk, which the Downtown Business Association is working on, and interpretative signs placed on the brick podium structures. The idea that people will grab a yogurt and look down at engraved names on a paver and somehow learn and retain something about Auburn's history, defies common sense.” Mayor Bridget Powers said she’s glad the committee has a basic budget for the project now. “I wanted us to have something, a point, a beginning,” Powers said. “We are going to hear this cart-before-the-horse thing for forever unless we do something.” Powers said while $8,000 is not enough to engrave all the tiles in the area, she hopes future community donations, fundraisers and redevelopment funds could pay for more engraving. According to Bernie Schroeder, Auburn Department of Public Works director, Ruhkala Monument Company out of Rocklin would be doing the engraving. The company was given the contract for the Streetscape Phase 1 area. Auburn resident Linda Wilson said she thinks the city should encourage residents to pay for their own engravings on the tiles instead of adding historical figures. These could include people’s names, dates and special messages. “I know I would do it,” Wilson said. “It (would be) kind of cool to go down there and see your name.” Auburn resident River Enderud said she thinks while the city is no longer considering paying $18,000 for the engraving, $8,000 is still too much, because the money could be put to better use. “It’s an improvement I guess, but still that is a ridiculous amount of money to put names on tiles,” Enderud said. “There are potholes all over the place. You go down Bowman (Road) and the whole time you are on the road the whole car shakes.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com