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Benton Council nixes Harrison mural painting

Posted on 7/12/2017, 11:33 AM

Reasoning that it has no economic benefit to the city, Benton City Council members on Monday nixed the idea of a proposed Beatles-themed mural near Interstate 57.

John Cerney of Salinas, Calif., had entertained the idea of painting the 16-foot mural depicting George Harrison and his fans on city-owned property between airport property and the interstate.

"He chose Benton to donate his art for one year. He chooses somewhere across the country every year," Rachel Gartner, the city's public information coordinator, said at a council meeting two weeks ago. "He is interested in the story behind George Harrison visiting his sister (Louise) here."

The only cost to the city was Cerney's travel and motel expenses, estimated to be around $2,000.

"What is that going to benefit the city?" questioned Commissioner Donnie Wyant after city attorney Tom Malkovich reported he and Gartner contacted the artist to confirm Cerney's intentions.

"We're kind of hoping they (visitors) would want to stop and get a picture of the mural and spend some time and dollars in our communities, whether it be our restaurants or antique shops," Commissioner Dennis Miller said.

"The Beatles don't enthuse me at all, so I'm going to vote no," Wyant said.

"I'd rather put that money toward a police officer," said Police and Fire Commissioner Donald Storey.

Commissioners voted 3-1 -- with Miller voting in opposition -- to deny Cerney's estimated expenses, basically shutting down the project. Mayor Fred Kondritz was absent, with Miller acting as mayor pro tem.

In other news, eight bids were submitted for the demolition of four houses. A local company was the low bidder, but the bids were turned over to City Clerk Brook Craig and zoning administrator David Garavalia for further review. They were given authorization to award the bid following further examination.