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Officials vote to support gateway sign initiative

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- After years of delays and disagreements, the Albany City Commission voted Tuesday to fund an initiative to build four large signs at the city's gateways.

The decision advances an issue that started in 2008 when the city and Georgia Department of Transportation worked out a deal to fund the signs jointly.

According to City Engineer Bruce Maples, the massive signs -- more than 30 1/2 feet wide -- come with a $372,800 grant from GDOT. To finish the project, the commission voted to obligate $379,000 in special local option sales tax dollars which were allocated to the project under SPLOST V.

"We've sent the information about the project off to GDOT and we'll have a pre-construction conference with the lowest bidder ... the public will probably start to see movement on the project in three to four weeks," he said.

Archimetric Design and Engineering was the lowest and most responsible bidder, Maples said.

While the decision to push forward with the signs wasn't a difficult one for most on the commission, a few did express concern over the price tag and whether the city should look at other options.

Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff said he had taken a cursory glance at signage projects similar to the one being considered and found considerable price differences.

"I've found a few cities who have put down these kind of signs for a lot less...I don't understand where the money is going and I just don't feel comfortable with it," Langstaff said.

Langstaff also said he had concerns over the recurring maintenance cost associated with the project, which will have to come out of the city's general fund.

Maples estimates that those costs will likely hover around $50,000 unless staff can work out an arrangement with Albany Tech or Turner Job Corps to help defray the costs.

Before the commission were two options. Option 1 would include sophisticated lighting, irrigation and landscaping to the signs for an increased cost. Option 2 was a more diluted version of Option 1 but came at a better price tag.

After considerable discussion, the commission voted 5-2, with Langstaff and Mayor Willie Adams dissenting, to go ahead with the project.

The signs are to be built at the Dawson Road interchange with the Liberty Expressway, Slappey Boulevard interchange with the expressway, on Sylvester Road and U.S. 19 and on Newton Road.