Banners remain issue for council

Donelle Pardee Whiting

City leaders are one step closer to passing a policy in regard to advertising banners on the square.

At Monday’s Washington City Council meeting, city administrator Bob Morris presented a draft of proposed guidelines for the use of banners on the Washington Square.

Concern about the increasing proliferation of banners on the square prompted Mayor Gary Manier to bring the issue to council members’ attention via the public services committee.

Manier said previously he received complaints about the banners cluttering the square, which has been classified as the city park since its creation in 1834.

In the past year, there have been any number of banners hanging on the square advertising everything from Cherry Festival to events to benefits.

Several city leaders said the number of banners on the square has been increasing.

Although several aldermen voiced concern about banning all advertising signs on the square, they did acknowledge it is becoming a problem.

After a discussion at the February committee-of-the-whole meeting, the general consensus is to create an ordinance detailing specific guidelines and restricting the use of banners to downtown events, such as Heartland Pride and the Washington Arts Festival.

Morris presented a list of guidelines which will be discussed at the next committee-of-the-whole meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the library meeting room.

After city officials have a chance to give input, the guidelines will be put into a resolution that will be placed on the March 16 agenda.

“While I think I’ve addressed everyone’s concerns, the guidelines may need to be fine tuned,” Morris said.

The guidelines are:

• banners, flags, signs and other similar items may only be posted, placed or displayed on the square after city approval of a written application

• banners can advertise only outdoor events within the downtown area, which includes the area bounded by Jefferson, High, Catherine/Burton and Market (extended to Jefferson) streets

• banners will not be allowed to advertise any private business, purpose, product or service

• banners may not be larger than 2 feet high by 8 feet wide

• only banners on both the east and west side of the square will be allowed per event

• only two events may be advertised with banners on the square at a time

• priority will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applications may not be submitted more than 90 days prior to the event.

• banners may not be displayed more than seven days prior to the event and shall be removed within 24 hours after the event

• banners must be hung by city personnel

• event sponsors must deliver banners to City Hall at least 48 hours prior to the expected posting/placement date and will remove the banners at the conclusion of the event.

• and any banners, flags, signs or other similar items placed on the square without the city’s prior approval will be immediately removed by the city without notice.

In other business, council members:

• heard from Washington Fire Chief Mike Vaughn about reminding residents to call 911 for emergencies.

Because the Washington Fire Department is a volunteer organization, there is not always someone available at the station to answer calls, Vaughn said.

Although the paramedics are full-time, they may be out on a call, he added.

Vaughn shared a recent occurrence where an elderly woman called the station for a possible carbon monoxide leak from her furnace.

“She left a message, saying she thought she had a problem,” Vaughn said. “But she did not leave a name, address or phone number.”

In the end, she eventually called 911.

Vaughn said if residents expect rescue personnel to respond, they need to call 911. If it is not an emergency, but residents still need a response,   they should call the Washington Police Department’s non-emergency line at 444-2313.

• heard from Jack Stone about the second annual Washington-to-Peoria St. Jude Run scheduled for Aug. 1.

The run is a satellite run of the Memphis-to-Peoria Run for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Planning for the August run has already started, Stone said, adding there will be an informational meeting at 6:30 Tuesday in the Washington District Library meeting room at Five Points Washington.

The meeting is open to anyone interested in participating either as a runner or a volunteer.

Stone said last year’s run, which wound through several Washington neighborhoods before moving on to Peoria, was a success because of everyone who participated and all the businesses that provided goods and services.

• and approved a $536,650.90 contract to R.A. Cullinan & Son Inc. of Tremont for the construction of an extension of Kern Road from Hillcrest Drive west to South Cummings Lane.

Of the 11 contracting companies that picked up the projects plans and bid documents, seven submitted bids. Manier said the current economy has made the bidding climate very competitive, saving the city almost $150,000.

The estimated cost of the project was $686,227.10.