Kirkwood will take a pass on the concept of electronic self-advertising — at least for now — the city council has decided.
Council members on Feb. 6 balked at the estimated cost of the sign — between $50,000 and $60,000.
A second consideration was a distaste among some council members, and Mayor Tim Griffin, for the idea of the city breaking its own rule against electronic signage in the Kirkwood Historical District — a regulation it is responsible for enforcing.
The cost estimates given the city by two bidding contractors called for a monument-style cement based structure, with a brick façade, supporting a large rectangular message board identifying city hall on one half, and with an LED display on the other half providing a color display of news tidbits or booster messages that could be remotely keyed in.
“I just think we could use that (money) on streets or something. I just think there’s probably a better use for it,” said Griffin.
The moral issue also is problematic, said the mayor.
“I don’t want to go down that road and say we can do it, but no one else can,” he said.
Council Member Nancy Luetzow, original sponsor of the city-hall sign idea, disagreed.
“Our strategic plan … talks about keeping citizens informed. There are thousands of cars that go by here (city hall) every day. That, to me, is like free advertising,” said Luetzow. “It would be a basic black background with probably white sans serif letters that could advertise (messages) like ‘City Council Meeting Tonight, 7 p.m.,’ to let citizens know what’s going in this building.”
Luetzow said she is fully aware that electronic message boards are banned in the Historic District.
“To me this is the City of Kirkwood communicating to our citizens and our visitors. It is not flashy advertising; it is information,” said Luetzow.
As to the “OK for me, but not for you” issue, Luetzow pointed out that the city council occasionally makes exceptions for third parties on matters such as building height.
“The city, when necessary, certainly — with proper deliberation — can make exceptions to the rules that it creates,” she said.
Luetzow said she could live with an analog message board — a non-electric sign with lettering changed by hand.
“I just think it is important that we identify this building, and, even more so, that we inform people of what various meetings (are scheduled),” she said.
The board left open the question of an analog message board but made it clear that the estimated cost for a digital sign make that a non-starter for the foreseeable future.
“For me, a $50,000 sign, is way, way down on the list of priorities,” said Council Member Wallace Ward.