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March 19, 2012

Signed, sealed, collected: Signs removed from right-of-way stored at New Albany Street Department

NEW ALBANY — About 200 illegally placed signs were collected by the city during a right-of-way cleanup blitz Friday in New Albany.

Street Department Commissioner Mickey Thompson estimated the number of signs removed would likely have been greater if the city hadn’t announced its intentions early last week. He said he noticed various Realtor and neighborhood association signs had been removed from the public right-of-way prior to the blitz, but added the city collected what remained.

The city’s ordinance requires the signs be held for 30 days, but Thompson said a fee won’t be charged as had initially been announced. The ordinance doesn’t establish a specific monetary penalty, Thompson said.

“By the time we do it again, I would hope that we would have a fee structure in place,” he said.

As for Friday’s collection, Thompson said owners of the signs can schedule a time to pick up their property by contacting the street department.

Some people claimed to have had permission from the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety to place signs in the right-of-way, however Thompson — who is a member of the board — said he wasn’t aware the city ever gave such approval.

Board President Suellen Wilkinson agreed with Thompson.

“I don’t recall we would have ever given permission to put signs in the city’s right-of-way unless they were city signs or that kind of thing,” she said.

Any organization, business or resident is required to garner board of works approval before placing a sign in the public right-of-way. But Thompson said he couldn’t guarantee the board would allow any signs to be set in the right-of-way in the future.

He said it could create a confusing scenario for residents and businesses and would be difficult for the city to monitor who had been approved to install signage on the right-of-way.

Again, Wilkinson concurred with Thompson’s assertion.

“I don’t think there’s any reason signs ought to be in the city’s right-of-way,” she said.

But while the city must hold signs for 30 days according to its ordinance, residents can take down such advertisements of their own accord and discard them without storing the property for any amount of time, according to city attorney Stan Robison. He added he’s reviewing the city’s existing right-of-way ordinance for possible changes.

The board of works approved last year appointing residents from neighborhood associations to remove signs, but the New Albany City Council has yet to officially act on the proposal. Wilkinson said she still supports the idea in part because it would help with efficiency.

“I think it’s an enormous waste of money for a city staff to be running around picking up illegally placed signs,” she said.

Typically areas close to interstate interchanges are plagued with illegally placed signs and advertisements, Wilkinson said. She credited the city staff for the cleanup and said she’s heard several compliments from residents on the difference the blitz made.

“I think the city looks much better without the plethora of signs all over town,” Wilkinson said.

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Barbara Brewster has been the organ player at Faith Lutheran Church in Jeffersonville for the past 50 years. Brewster began playing organ with the church in August of 1964 at the age of 17.

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