Wednesday, June 19, 2013
SKOWHEGAN -- That's it. The signs are coming down.
Signs celebrating Skowhegan successes will now have to be removed following a decision by the selectmen this week.
Staff photo by Doug Harlow
Selectmen this week decided that rather than haggle over which signs will be displayed on the U.S. routes 2 and 201 entrances to town, none will be allowed.
So, as of July 30, signs celebrating the high school's state championship field hockey teams, Somerset County's maple syrup production and Gifford's world's best ice cream will have to be removed.
"You try to limit it to a couple and it just goes on forever," Selectman Steve Spaulding said following his motion to take down the existing signs and not allow any more to be erected.
Spaulding on Friday said the board's decision came in part following comments from a representative from the Maine Department of Transportation, who recommended small non-commercial signs, further complicating an issue that has been on the table since last August.
"So many people wanted to put signs up, we just figured the best way to do it, so we don't have to keep visiting this issue every year, we'd do away with them," he said. "The final decision was left up to us. We've got so many other things we're trying to deal with."
The flap over signs in a grassy area next to the Kennebec River and the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge began last summer when Town Manager John Doucette Jr. allowed a new sign marking the 25th anniversary of Stan's French Fries at the Skowhegan State Fair.
"It's not so much that they didn't like that sign, but they wanted to make it equal for everybody," Doucette said in January after the board discussed the matter. "It wasn't just, 'OK, we can put Stan's sign up, but how about this other person?' What determines what goes up there?"
Selectmen first discussed the Stan's French Fries sign during their Aug. 14 meeting, which took place during the 10-day state fair. Doucette noted that owner, Skowhegan native Stan McGray, has done a lot for the town through donations and fundraisers.
His sign was to come down when the fair closed, but it remained up for another month.
Selectmen in January said they wanted to adopt a policy that would limit the number, size and placement of the signs.
The board's chairwoman, Joy Mase, and her partner, John Lewis, at Greatest Scapes landscaping company, even agreed to design five small billboards for the site.
The signs were to have been 3 feet by 5 feet and would not display telephone numbers or advertising, just the name and the accomplishment. There will be one space for a sign to acknowledge specific accomplishments, such as the high school field hockey team and three spaces to express specific milestones, such as Stan's French Fries. The final slot would acknowledge certain awards, such as Gifford's Ice Cream named tops in the world for its vanilla and chocolate flavors by the World Dairy Expo. Skowhegan is the county seat of Somerset County, which claims it produces more maple syrup than any other U.S. county, and there is a sign for that, too.
"I've talked about this about as much as I need to," Selectman Newell Graf said during this week's board discussion.
Mase was not at the meeting.
Selectwoman Betty Austin was the lone dissenter of the four selectmen who voted 3-1 to ban the signs.
"It's a shame to not celebrate the community," Austin said. "I'm afraid you're going to have lots of complaints doing this."
Doug Harlow -- 612-2367