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Saint John councillors voted Monday to approve $1.8 million in funding for the Peel Plaza public park area.

Some Saint John councillors want to break with the city’s arts and culture policy for spending when it comes to Peel Plaza.

Policy says the city should budget one per cent of the cost of new public buildings for art. When various factors are considered in the case of Peel Plaza, that would reserve $200,000 for a public art installation.

Councillor John MacKenzie said he wanted people to give them art for free instead.

"Is that something that we have to do, spend $200,000 on art? I don't think so. I think we can get art donated in there and recognize the people that do it with a plaque," he said. "It's not a need, it's a want."

MacKenzie said he might support a far lower amount, or spreading the spending over several years.

Two other councillors, Bill Farren and David Merrithew, have also said they will not support that spending on art at Peel Plaza.

$42M plaza backed by previous council

Councillor Shirley McAlary backed sticking to policy. "Yes, I think we should," she said. "You know, once all that construction work is completed at Peel Plaza we have to make it as pleasing as possible for the public."

McAlary noted that the Saint John Arts Centre stands amid the new Peel Plaza buildings. She said it deserves to be complemented by public art.

The council narrowly voted to spend $1.8 million to fund completion of the $42-million project on Monday. The police station and parking garage was approved by the previous council.