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New signs to tout events and historic National Road

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GREENFIELD — Two new signs at downtown Greenfield’s main intersection will highlight history and inform the public of upcoming community events.

Mayor Dick Pasco is in the process of placing an electronic community informational sign at city hall, on the corner of State and Main streets.

While the approval process and building of the sign could take several months, another sign will be installed as early as next week touting Main Street as the Old National Road.

The Indiana National Road Association and Indiana Department of Transportation are installing a historic information sign at the corner of Main and State, describing U.S. 40 and its significance to the nation’s expansion west in the 19th century.

The sign, one of 15 across the state between Richmond and Terre Haute, has been in the works for over a year. The foundation was poured last week, and city officials expect the sign to go up next week.

Pasco said the community sign would be located west of the Old National Road sign. Both will be on the south side of the intersection.

The proposed community sign would be about 10 feet wide by 6 feet high and would be mounted to the ground close to where a sign once stood bearing the name of former Mayor Keith McClarnon.

The new sign will bear a city logo and display electronic messages announcing festivals or community fundraisers.

“I want to keep people aware of what’s coming up that they might want to take advantage of,” Pasco said.

Pasco has an architectural rendering of the sign with an estimated cost of $21,000. If plans come to fruition, Pasco said he would seek quotes from multiple companies to get the best price for the sign.

But getting approval could take time.

Greenfield’s strict sign ordinance is in the process of being relaxed. One of the changes relates to electronic message boards. If approved by the city council, the ordinance would allow electronic signs to change messages every minute as opposed to every five.

Still, electronic signs are not allowed in the historic district per Greenfield’s zoning ordinance. Greenfield Planning Director Joanie Fitzwater said the sign would also have to be approved by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals and Historic Board of Review.

The BZA must decide whether to allow an electronic sign in the historic district. The Historic Board of Review would have to sign off on the aesthetics of the sign. Fitzwater said while she doesn’t necessarily like the thought of an electronic sign in the historic downtown area, the benefits of informing the community of upcoming events outweighs her concern.

She said even though Pasco is the mayor and the sign would be on city property, it’s important that it goes through the formal process for approval.

One thing Pasco has a handle on at this point is financing for the project. He pitched the idea to the Hancock County Tourism Commission last week, and the group was receptive to paying for the sign with innkeepers tax money collected from hotel guests.

“Having a sign on that corner would be really beneficial,” said David Dellacca, president of the commission. “It’s a busy intersection for people who live in town, people who live in the area and people who are just traveling through.”

The tourism commission has talked about a similar community sign since it formed in 2011. Before that, the Hancock County Visitors Bureau also considered paying for a community sign but did not do so because of the sign ordinance.

Pasco initiated changes in the sign ordinance, which he says will make it more “business friendly.” He said the sign at city hall wasn’t necessarily the reason for the changes, but allowing electronic signs to flash messages every minute as opposed to every five will be especially beneficial for the informational sign.

Greg Carwein, member of both the tourism commission and visitors bureau, said he’s wanted an informational sign downtown “forever” and he’s pleased the idea is taking root. He said not only could the sign display community events, but it could also display safety messages, such as Amber Alerts.

The mayor’s office will be in charge of fielding community messages from nonprofit agencies and putting them on the sign. Pasco said the sign would be owned and maintained by whoever paid for it, which would likely be the tourism commission.

While the commission didn’t formally approve funding for the project, members gave enough good feedback to give Pasco the green light to go to the BZA next.

Carwein said he’d like the sign to be mounted on city hall for more visibility, but Pasco said it would look better on the sidewalk.

Dellacca said he has a concern with making sure the sign is protected from traffic accidents and vandalism, but those are things that could be worked out as officials iron out details.

“Funding for the project in some way or form is probably going to happen (from the tourism commission),” Dellacca said. “It’s just a matter of getting the nuts and bolts worked out.”

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