City moves ahead with advertising on bus shelters

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— The city is moving ahead with the idea of selling advertising on bus shelters despite objections from three City Council members.

In a 4-3 vote, the council directed staff to put out a proposal that would seek private companies to provide new or additional bus shelters and maintain bus shelters in exchange for advertising on them. The company would also be asked to give a percentage of advertising sales to the city.

Council members Kathy Connell, Arianthe Stettner, Bud Romberg and Nancy Kramer were in favor of the proposal.

"It is a concept that is intriguing to me," Stettner said. "We could come up with something that could be a win-win for everybody."

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord brought the idea to the council after an outdoor advertising company contacted the city and estimated it could bring into the city $30,000 to $40,000 each year. Outdoor Promotions Inc. would also pay the $5,000 cost for replacing shelters and take over the 500 to 700 hours the city spends each year in maintaining them.

But Councilman Paul Strong said the extra revenue might not be worth it.

"I am an accountant and when I looked at this, I thought it was the best thing that I had seen in a long time," Strong said. "But then I thought what would I pay to keep the downtown looking as it is. And to me, it is a lot more than $30,000 to $40,000."

Even the council members who voted to go ahead with the proposal expressed reluctance at seeing signs downtown.

Councilman Bud Romberg said he would be willing to put out a proposal, but it would have be one that did not make the downtown look like a highly commercialized area.

"I don't know if vendors are going to be able to work in those kind of perimeters," Romberg said. "If it can be done and they are willing to come back, I'll be willing to look at it."

But Councilman Loui Antonucci doesn't think that can happen.

"I don't know how you could have signs and not add to the commercialization and do the businesses any good," Antonucci said.

Antonucci also questioned how much money the signs could be generated from the 11 bus shelters the city has and if local businesses could afford to advertise.

"I don't know how you can get $30,000 out of that. I don't know how much money local businesses are willing to ante up. I don't think they have the ante there, unless it is a lot of Realtors on the signs," Antonucci said.

But Stettner said she liked the company's proposal for putting bus schedules inside the shelters and its emphasis on local businesses, which would speak to the character of the community. Connell said she was not ready to give up on the idea either, and the signs could be tasteful and a positive addition.

Under the contract, the city would have control on what could be advertised and have some say over the design. The council decided to have Kramer and Stettner work with city staff in creating perimeters in the proposal.

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