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City OK’s $60,000 for new electronic sign

Reamer Street likely location, mayor says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Despite some protests, in a 3-0 vote, the city of Auburn allocated $60,000 for a new electronic sign as long as City Manager Bob Richardson thinks the project is a good idea. The location of the sign could possibly be at the end of Reamer Street, but that hasn’t been decided. Planning Commissioner Bob Snyder made a presentation Monday night to the City Council, acting as the Auburn Urban Development Authority, about the proposed LED motion sign. Councilman Kevin Hanley was absent and Councilman Mike Holmes left during the discussion. Richardson was also absent. On Jan. 24 Auburn resident Virgil Traynor first spoke about the sign as a way for the authority to spend some of its redevelopment funds before any potential state freeze of the monies. At that time, the sign was proposed to replace the current static billboard at the Maple Street exit into Old Town Auburn. “The discussion is here tonight because we were made aware of the city’s desire to obligate redevelopment funds so they weren’t lost,” Snyder said Monday. “The other major change to what we are asking for tonight is we narrowed in on the Maple Street billboard. We want to pull away from the Maple Street billboard. We are not advocating for an electric component to that billboard.” Snyder said he was aware the city had been considering a new billboard in the past, and the cost of a new electronic billboard would be about $60,000. “You own the current billboard and you would own the new billboard,” Snyder said. “That is why you need to be involved. Who manages it is unimportant to us.” Snyder said it would cost approximately $25,000 with free labor to build the frame for the sign, or $70,000 without free labor. Harvey Roper, who owns Roper’s Jewelers, gave a suggestion for the location of the potential new sign and said it could have several uses, including emergency notifications and warnings of closed streets. “Right there at the end of Reamer Street, there is a city parcel there, and it was slated to have a monument sign put there so Downtown could have some visible presence from Interstate 80,” Roper said. “This would be an opportunity to put a very versatile sign there at the end of Reamer Street.” Auburn resident Bart Ruud said he thought it was important to bring the city forward in terms of technology. “Static signs such as we are used to are somewhat a thing of the past,” Ruud said. “Even in my conservative way I would support an electronic sign.” Gary Moffat, who owns Carpe Vino in Old Town Auburn, said he thought the authority could find a better way to spend its funds. “I think it’s incumbent on your organization to really (look at) this carefully to understand how that money could be used in other ways,” Moffat said. According to Mayor Bill Kirby, City Manager Bob Richardson would have to bring the project back to the authority for final approval if he thought it was a good idea. At that time an official site would be decided on and the city would be accepting bids. Kirby said he thinks if the project goes forward the sign will be erected at Reamer Street, because the area has already been studied for a sign in the past. Kirby said he also thinks the city would be able to find people who would donate their time to build the sign's frame. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com