DEPOE BAY — The city council has turned away a grieving relative and declared the town’s memorial bench program “on hold” because of a global shortage of plastics to build the celebratory seats.
The decision followed news that the Bill Spores Memorial Bench, ordered in April, won’t arrive until September. Six additional memorial benches that have been ordered have no set delivery dates, at all. “Plastic wood is not being made,” explained public works chief Brady Weidner, who said Chinese and Gulf Coast supply lines are bottlenecked or closed down due to the global pandemic or bad weather.
At a July city council meeting, the anguished kin of a deceased resident complained about the memorial bench shortage, but found no consolation. City officials also worry they’re running out of room for the $2,000 benches, with nearly three dozen already spread across scenic viewpoints in the harbor and rocky ocean headlands. Some town elders would like to pull the plug on the popular program altogether.
“We need to do something different, get creative, like plaques on trees,” asserted Councilor Fran Recht. “Everywhere I look there’s a bench in my scenic view. “
Weidner, the city superintendent, estimated there are 33 or more memorial benches dedicated to leading as well as lesser-known citizens, with a Parks Commission audit underway to get a firm number. After paying $1,000 for a plastic bench, a separate bronze plaque, concrete and city crew installation, the $2,000 price is “break-even” for the town. But maintenance of bench sites and an undercurrent of vandalism have made the memorials as much a liability as an asset, he added.