City threatens to fine for postering

Local bands and student groups that depend on Ghetto utility poles for free advertising space had better think twice before drawing their staple guns. A city by-law prohibits illegal postering and carries a maximum $5,000 fine.

In concert with the by-law, the AMS Volunteer Crew and City of Kingston personnel spent Sunday stripping utility poles of their layers of posters and bills.

Dubbed “Spring Cleaning,” the event swept through major streets in the Ghetto.

“Our goal was to clean all of University [Street], from Union to Princess Street,” said Marina Komolova, chair of the AMS Volunteer Crew. “Not only did we finish that project, but we also cleaned Clergy between Union and Division, and Division from Clergy to Johnson Street,” she said.

Approximately 25 people participated in the poster removal process, which lasted more than seven hours.

The city provided the crew with exacto knives, pliers, screw drivers, garbage bags and garbage pickup.

Komolova said tearing down the posters was grueling work because there were thousands of staples and often more than five layers of paper.

“When you cut open the [layers of] posters with the exacto [knife], you were able to peel it off like a jacket,” she said. “Below, there were old posters ... [that] were wet with mold and dead bugs.”

Komolova said that she couldn’t read the print on the bottom layer of posters, but estimated they were at least five years old.

“We had to use crow bars to strip the final layer,” she said.

Kim Leonard, acting manager of the by-law enforcement office, said a city by-law prohibiting illegal postering has been in effect for decades. The Streets by-law, which governed the old City of Kingston, was enacted in 1938.

“In the past, there have been fines from $50 to $200 dollars,” Leonard said. A $5,000 fine would only apply to a severe case of unlawful postering, such as for a repeat offender, she said.

Leonard said the Ghetto is a particular problem area because the city does not have the forces to monitor the region at all times. However, she said Kingston groups like the Downtown Business Improvement Association assist the city with these responsibilities.

“[The Association] will remove signs, date them, mark where they removed them from and sign the back of the posters, [then] forward them to the by-law enforcement office,” Leonard said. The city will proceed with charges, which will then be decided upon in court. Only a judge has the authority to issue an extreme fine.

In addition to the cleaning operation, the City has put up warning plates on poles about the fines.

Scott Dermody, producer of Queen’s Musical Theatre’s recent play Lucky Stiff, said postering the Ghetto was part of his production’s advertising campaign.

“I was totally unaware of the potential for fines,” he said.

Dermody said Lucky Stiff had a limited budget, so advertising on utility poles was an easy way to increase its exposure. Nonetheless, he said he understands the city’s viewpoint.

“People don’t generally take down their posters, so I can see the potential for litter,” he said.

Leonard said illegal postering is also a safety issue. She said that individuals may climb the utility poles in order to tack up their posters.

The city currently provides kiosks for groups that have obtained a license to advertise, she said.

She said she hopes the warning plates deter individuals and groups from postering, adding that students are not the only ones contributing to the problem.

Dermody said he doubts the plates alone will be effective.

“People are going to test [the by-law,] and unless the city actually cracks down on unlawful postering, it will be ignored,” he said.

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