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Billboard from 2008 covered after three years

Chamber of Commerce paid one-time $600 rental, CEO says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A 2008 billboard representing a defunct Auburn event had some residents confused before finally being covered up last week. The billboard sits on the right side of westbound Interstate 80 not long after the Ophir Road exit. Until recently it advertised Auburn’s 2008 Black and White Ball. Bruce Cosgrove, chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber rented the billboard from CBS Outdoor, which owns it, for about two months. CBS Outdoor offers a number of outdoor advertising options in North and South America, according to its website. The Chamber paid about $600 for the sign for that two-month time period and had not been paying for it since, Cosgrove said. “We got one invoice,” he said. “We paid the one invoice. It was for 60 days of viewing time. When it was still up eight months later we called to ask them why they hadn’t painted it out. The main thing was that we just wanted to make sure on their end the meter wasn’t running, and that they weren’t going to be sending us an invoice for six months of billboard time.” Cosgrove said early last week the Chamber didn't have any plans to follow up on the sign. “It hasn’t been a problem for us,” Cosgrove said. “We have called them, and we have asked when are they going to paint the billboard out. We haven’t called them probably in a year-and-a-half, but we did after it stayed up there for months after the ball.” Cosgrove said in 2008 the Chamber decided it wanted a billboard going westbound on the freeway to promote the ball, because it already had a billboard going eastbound off Maple Street. “That is the one they pointed us to as being available,” he said before the sign was covered up last week. “So, when I went by to see the billboard, which by the way I missed the first time I drove by … it was either yellow or orange with a message on it. It was tattered, meaning faded. So, it had been up there for quite some time. So, I guess what I’m saying is I’m not surprised that it’s up there, because apparently it’s not cost effective for them to go by and paint it out … I’m just guessing.” Multiple calls to CBS Outdoor were not returned as of Friday, but by Friday evening the sign appeared to have been covered up. Cosgrove said the sign was a bargain at the time because it was a special offer to the Chamber. Although it is not always highly visible from the freeway, it was helpful in bringing attention to the ball. Cosgrove said when the next year’s ball rolled around, and the Chamber decided not to use the billboard again, it was still successful in advertising the 2009 event. “It didn’t hurt us that the billboard was still there even with the wrong date, because (attendees) would have to buy a ticket to go to that event for the wrong date and, in buying the ticket, they would have bought the ticket for the event at the right date.” The Chamber has received some feedback about the billboard, but not as much as for the event, Cosgrove said. “Once in awhile we will be asked how come that billboard is still up, sure,” he said. “But we get more calls about the Black and White Ball than we get about that billboard.” Cosgrove said there are no future plans for bringing the ball back. Linda Robinson, president of the Old Town Business Association, said there have been about half a dozen people who have asked her about the sign over the years. “They say, ‘Gee, did you see the Black and White billboard is still up?’” Robinson said before the sign was covered up last week. “(They ask) ‘Why is it still there?’ And you just shrug your shoulders and say, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s time (for it to be taken down). It’s overdue.” Auburn resident Randi Swisley said early last week it was surprising the billboard was still up. “They must have a lot of money because they are wasting a resource there,” Swisley said. “It’s just surprising in this economic climate that somebody would let that go if they are still in business.” Auburn resident Vicki Weldon said she had seen the sign while driving on I-80. “I thought they could advertise something else,” Weldon said earlier in the week. “It does look kind of funny. You have got something three years old there, and we don’t even do the ball anymore.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com