By Ed Hartz and Ed Townsend
Almost every public building and monument more than 5 years old is already marked by a lack of maintenance. Under staffed and underpaid, most governments and civic organizations opt to perform only the most basic maintenance, such as taking out the trash and cleaning the toilets. Town Halls, Fire Stations, Museums and War Memorial that were proudly dedicated by prominent politicians and wealthy donors gradually acquire the patina of grime and stains that we have come to expect on our neglected symbols of community.
Eventually many deteriorated buildings and monuments are removed to make space for modern replacements. A lucky few are extensively restored and renovated, thereby preserving the community’s architectural legacy. These public monuments were, after all, designed by the best architects and built by the best contractors using the best materials. Let’s remember that it is the well preserved church or courthouse that will be photographed for the scenic calendar, and used in the tourist brochures. The brand new pre-fab office building is best ignored.
Trustees of the public heritage need professional help to maintain public buildings and monuments in a condition that reflects community pride. Periodically, professionally clean the hard surfaces on a schedule that reflects the severity of the environment. Act promptly when the evidence of neglect becomes apparent; professionally remove stains, graffiti and grime before they become extensive and before they penetrate deeply.
But all this costs money that they don’t have, the trustees complain. Wise governments and organizations have begun to require that donors include an endowment to maintain the buildings and monuments. Governments and civic organizations have founded organizations to maintain the existing public heritage; often called “The Friends of” something or other, these organizations provide a focus for the maintenance of important community symbols and facilities. Some of this maintenance is hands-on, such as a trash pick-up day or spring flower planting. Other maintenance requires professional knowledge and equipment.
Everyone in the stone industry benefits when the natural stone in public buildings and monuments is clean and unblemished. It is good P.R. The retailer, installer and maintenance professionals can work together to create a little free publicity for everyone by adopting a prominent local stone installation and forming a “Friends of” organization to maintain it. Cleaning, restoring and conserving stone architectural elements are best left to the craftsmen at professional restoration companies, but the stone maintenance companies can often get most materials donated by the manufacturers if there will be sufficient publicity. Professional restoration companies can adopt a small monument and the allied businesses need only to help provide the publicity. Major buildings are a different situation. The stone retailers, architects and builders have potent contacts needed to raise the funds for major projects, but the pay-off will be proportionate.
I know that you are busy, but a few hours now to create an event that will put your businesses in the news every year is wise and forward thinking, just don’t forget to invite the TV news to your annual clean-up events.
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