Frank Geltner and Deco District businesses presented the Newport City Council with an idea that they’d been working on for some time. It’s the project that is supposed dress up the corner of 101 and Hurbert. They tried to get approval earlier of what amounted to a rather peculiar looking obelisk that resembled one of the art deco spires at each end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. But that idea went no where. So the businesses figured they’d come up with something that would have an art deco design to it but with a large LED sign that could promote various events and businesses in the area.
Reaction by the council was rather mixed. Councilor Laura Swanson said the sign is too big and that flashing lights is not what she had in mind. She said she prefers a piece of art, perhaps from the art deco era. Others seemed to agree but the conversation kept coming back to the sign would give local businesses and groups great advertising along with promoting special events in the community. City Councilor David Allen weighed in suggesting that income from business advertising could help pay for maintenance and operating costs and that maybe the Chamber of Commerce would be interested in participating. Councilor Mark Saelens said having a brightly lit sign in downtown Newport would look very out of place, lighting up the sky. He suggested it be turned off during the night.
The cost of the sign, about $50,000, appeared to be within the amount the city awarded the Art Deco District group to come up with an attraction in the downtown. But then city Public Works Director Tim Gross threw a bucket of water on the discussion. He pointed out that past a certain price threshold a government project like the sign crosses over the line and becomes a “prevailing wage project” which could jack the price up 50%. So suddenly, the Art Deco allotment won’t cover the bill. But he did add that certain components of the project might be separated out to circumvent the prevailing wage trigger. Gross also added his concerns about the cost of operating and maintaining the sign. He said sternly that he’s not interested in his department maintaining the structure or covering other costs associated with it.
At that point the council said it wanted more time to think about it, and Art Deco Business leader Frank Geltner said his group will think about it too. He said they weren’t totally sold on the sign themselves but that it seemed like a pretty good idea so they thought they’d run it by the council.
More on the story as it develops.