City seal has hidden costs



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The seal shows up in a number of places, not just on city letterhead. This one is just outside the Public Works garage on Route 110. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
December 09, 2009
BERLIN — The city seal, officially changed by council in August, is in more places than just the door to city hall. Now an effort to replace the old seal with the new is running into the issue of cost.

From city letterhead to city vehicles to in front of the public works garage, the seal appears around Berlin than anyone knew.

"We're so used to seeing it we don't even think twice," said City Clerk Debra Patrick. Just the other day, she said, she looked at the payroll checks and noticed it in the corner.

Ms. Patrick complied a list of what would need to be replaced to get rid of the old seal so councilors would know the extent of the task they had signed up for. The memo ends: "You should realistically expect to spend $10,000 at a minimum." It was presented to the council on Monday.

That amount will likely problems. Councilor Mark Evans said back in August he would support the measure, but he did not want to see taxpayer money wasted. The council voted unanimously to move to the new seal, and that all stationary and other city logos featuring the old seal should be used up and not replaced.

But in some cases that could take years.

Public works vehicles, along with some school buses and waterworks trucks, have decals on the side featuring the old seal. Michael Perreault, director of public works, has 40 or 50 decals left, and no plans to order new ones.

"I haven't had a directive to change all the seals," he said.

By the city clerk's estimate, replacing the old decals on vehicles with new ones will cost almost $4,000, and that doesn't include the time to do it.

Mr. Perreault estimated it would require about an hour and a half of labor for each vehicle.

"It's not a five minute job," he said. "It takes time."

Plus there is the wasted 40 to 50 old decals. Most city vehicles only get on pair of decals for the life of the vehicle, Mr. Perreault said, so it's unlikely the city will use up what they have anytime soon.

The same could be said for the city's paper featuring the seal. The city clerk's memo said the last paper shipment was in July 2009, and there is $2,850 in materials, from envelopes to business cards, all featuring the old seal. Then there is the city hall stamp, which would cost $1,000 to replace.

City Manager Pat MacQueen said staff have removed the old seal where they could, but they haven't mounted a comprehensive effort yet. It has started with the paper stock, he said, and then they will move on from there, depending on the costs.

"If it's a significant amount it'd probably have to be budgeted next year," he said.

But next year the makeup of council be very different, and it's unclear whether there would be the support to spend money to make the change. Mayor-elect Paul Grenier has indicated he intends to try to repeal the resolution to change the seal, which he called a "slap in the face" to the history of the city.

Until then, if the city buys a new vehicle it will be one of two choices: the old seal, or no seal at all.

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