Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bad Signs

I hate to go all political on this blog, but I thought you might be interested in something I recently submitted to my town's weekly newspaper, The Strongsville Post.  It published on September 1st, but they made me cut it down to 500 words.  A little background: the city used $130,000 from the General Fund to construct a large brick sign with the word "Strongsville" on it.  Seems like kind of  waste to me.  Here's the unedited version.

A few months ago, I noticed the beginnings of some landscape and brick work being done on the northbound side of I-71, at the SR82 /Royalton Road exit.  A few weeks ago, the work completed, I saw the result, a very nice brick wall with the word "STRONGSVILLE" attached to the front and rows of greenery directly in front of the wall.

The idea for the sign came from a city council member who drove past a similar sign while on a trip to Columbus.  If it was good enough for a Columbus suburb, it certainly must be good enough for a Cleveland suburb.

I wondered just how much this sign cost the city to construct.  It seems that the landscaping was paid for by an ODOT grant of $48,000.

But, what about the brickwork and the giant letters?  Last week the Strongville Post's Terry Brlas reported that the sign itself cost the city $130,000.  Whoa!  Hey, it's a nice sign, but is it a worth the same amount the parents of this community are asked to shell out to have 325 student-athletes play a high school sport this fall?

But, in reading Mr. Brlas' article, I found out that there's really more to this sign than meets the eye.  See, apparantly "the purpose of the sign it to let motorists traveling northbound on I-71 know that they are in Strongsville and the Royalton Road exit is the place to exit."

That's interesting.  I guess a motorist might not notice the several big green signs advertising the Strongsville exit placed on the the highway starting at about a mile and a half before they would have to make their mind up to turn.  Maybe people who like to just stop to discover new cities can only read words attached to brick.  Maybe their GPS is broken and would steer them past Strongsville and into a less desirable place like Middleburg Heights.  If the purpose it to ensure we lure as many potential out-of-town consumers off the road and into our town, why not just build the brick wall on the highway itself, replace the big letters with a large arrow pointing to the right, forcing motorists onto the exit and right into the Strongsville Commerce Trap?

A little crazy, right?

But is it as crazy as what Mayor Perciak said about the sign?  In the article, the mayor is quoted as saying the sign "identifies what our community is.  We're sound, we're stable, we're safe and it displays all that.  It also displays a certain amount of pride in our residents, our schools and our businesses."  I personally drove past the sign eight times this week, the last three times driving really slowly to make sure I wasn't missing something.  Not once did I see anything other than the word "Strongsville."  I didn't feel more stable or safer.  I didn't feel more prideful or feel better about the schools or want to patronize any of the businesses in town. 

Or, is it as crazy as having members of the committee who helped to organize the construction of the sign stand next to the highway with large letters while others on the committee drove past.  The purpose was to determine how large the letters needed to be in order for them to be easily read as they drive by.  How about just sending one person down to the Columbus suburb where the idea came from in the first place and measure their letters?

Maybe Mayor Perciak's assistant would be able to help me see the light on this.  He said, "Folks are flying in to see some of our tech businesses and this lets them know where to access Strongsville."  Really?  They're flying in, yet have no means to figure out how to get our town from the airport, which is three miles away?  I doubt they'll be coming from the south anyway, but don't worry, the city is planning another sign for the southbound side of the highway.

I'm not sure how we ever break even on a $130,000 pricetag for this sign, much less adding another one, ultimately costing the city $260,000.  The good news is that the dollars come from the city's General Fund.  Apparantly, that's the fund used for uneccessary projects.  The General Fund must not cover things like adding sidewalks for children who walk to school, fixing potholed and cracked roads, or beefing up police patrols to catch up with youth gangs who sell drugs right out in the open in the common areas of certain residential developments.

And, the General Fund must not cover the cost of looking into ways to solve the backed up traffic leading into and out of the Mall and the Costco/Best Buy shopping plaza off of Royalton Road and onto I-71.  Yes, the same Royalton Road and I-71 the city is hoping random motorist will unwittingly discover with our new nice but overpriced signs. 

According to Mayor Perciak, "the business community wanted the sign."  Well then, here's a sign that I (a taxpayer who most likely contributed to the General Fund) want: "Strongsville: Leadership WANTED."  Maybe someone will see it, run for office and help stop wasteful spending in this town once and for all.

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