Barrie councillor Mike McCann is like a horse at the starting gate just waiting for the sound of the gun.
In this case, McCann is waiting on Monday night when city council will decide whether to back his proposed eight-foot steel landmark ‘Love Barrie’ sign, which staff have recommended should be erected at Heritage Park.
Mayor Jeff Lehman and councillors Riepma, Kungl and Aylwin voiced their opposition to the sign at last Monday’s general committee meeting.
There are two deputations at city council on Monday about the sign and one of the speakers has indicated they are opposed to what McCann is trying to do.
McCann told Barrie 360 in an email on Sunday that he wants to launch the ‘Love Barrie’ sign campaign on Canada Day.
If council green lights the sign, McCann has committed to fundraise the $200,000 cost, and he must present the city with 75 per cent of the donations by October 10.
At last week’s general committee meeting, councillors also gave tentative approval that staff and Access Barrie would issue a request for proposals to secure a company that would provide three sign concepts and install the sign in Heritage Park before July 1, 2022.
As well, donors would be recognized by having their names colour-branded in the concrete at the base of the sign and each donor would be provided with a memento of the sign.
There would be $15,000 set aside by the city beginning in 2022 to cover costs of potential graffiti removal and winter maintenance on and around the sign.
McCann is confident the fundraising dollars can be found.
“This comes, you know, from the passion I have for the city and the passion that I have for this ‘Love Barrie’ sign,” he explained.
“The Barrie sign encompasses three really simple words – inspiration, connection, and most importantly, fun.”
He says there has been an avalanche of interest from corporations and residents who want to get involved in the initiative.
“A lot of people want to donate money, and some corporate sponsors want to donate large money.”
When he put the idea of fundraising for a ‘Love Barrie’ sign on Facebook several months ago, McCann says he raised $50,000 in a few hours.
“I stopped it at that because I needed to get general committee and city council support.”
McCann claims to have $100,000 in verbal donations.
He believes the location at Heritage Park is a perfect link for people who want to take selfies with the sign and then head downtown to shop at store or eat at a restaurant.
“I appreciate Councillor McCann’s enthusiasm but it hasn’t spread to me,” said Councillor Claire Riepma at last Monday’s general committee meeting. “I don’t think that this is the kind of thing we ought to be spending our precious time nor our money.”
Mayor Jeff Lehman told general committee that he was on board until he read the staff report. Lehman said he wanted something that was a landmark that would make the city stand out.
“That is not, you know, the 23rd identical sign, and then the renderings came back,” he said. “And it is the Toronto sign or the Ottawa sign just with the letters Barrie and a heart at the front.”
McCann wants people to look beyond the sign as something other than just a steel structure.
“It’s not going to sit there and what you see is what you get,” he notes. “The sign will be able to inspire when you want to promote Black History Month, Pride Month, St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas.”
He says artisans will be able to wrap the sign.
“The sign is going to inspire kids and the whole city because this will always be evolving and always be changing.”