Belding council talks electronic sign usage

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 11:46 am on Thursday, May 18, 2017

An electronic sign that scrolls messages for community-related events and other goings-on in the city sits at the intersection of Bridge Street and Congress Street in Belding. The sign was made possible through donations from the Leppinks family. What the sign should display was the topic for a work session during Tuesday evening’s regular City Council meeting. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

BELDING — The uses of a newly installed electric sign were up for debate Tuesday evening.

The Belding City Council opened up a work session to talk about the electronic sign.

According to City Manager Bruce Brown, the city has been approached by local businesses and organizations hoping to use the sign to advertise to citizens. Brown said interested parties have pitched ideas for displaying “area governmental meetings such as Otisco Township meetings, church services and events, major employer recognition.”

“Each one of these opens up some interesting side issues,” he continued. “I’m recommending we take a look at all those things to pare it down again to community events, church events and service organizations.”

Councilman Brad Miller said the sign only offers a few seconds of engagement from where it sits at an intersection.

“The message of a business … I don’t know if you’d get enough across that would drive anybody towards a business,” he said. “That’s, I think, what we usually use for awareness. It’s for things like, ‘Hey, it’s Memorial Day weekend’ because it’s just that quick and so you can’t capture a lot or expect a lot out of it.”

City Manager Bruce Brown talks about the electronic sign at Bridge Street and Congress Street during the work session portion of the regular meeting of the Belding City Council Tuesday evening.

Councilman Bruce Meyers was in favor of putting community events on the sign, but he is “leery” about posting messages from churches and service organizations because “what is defined as a church and what is defined as a service organization can be different for different people.”

Councilman Mike Scheid expressed concern about maintenance of the sign and deciding what would be put on the sign becoming a “full-time job for someone (employed by) the city.”

“I think it would be all right to run something that says, ‘Support local businesses’ and then just have them follow it through, run it once a week or something,” he said. “Same thing with the churches: ‘This church has service at this time.’ You can get really tied up in trying to keep that sign going.”

Scheid would like to see the city charge a small fee for running information on the sign on behalf of businesses and organizations, in the interest of offsetting the “incidental expenses” of upkeep for the sign.

“We have to have somebody who’s going to the judge and the jury on this thing, too,” he said. “You’re not going to make everybody happy. That’s all there is to it.”

Mayor Ron Gunderson is against the city charging a fee to run information on the sign. He recalled the former pole sign that would advertise city events and other information.

“That sign replaced a sign that represented every event that was in the community for years,” he said. “When that was a pole sign, anything going on in this community was on that sign. That sign no longer could be used.

“The problem is, I think we need to promote this as a community. I don’t agree with charging,” he said. “We need to promote the businesses and we need to promote the community.”

Gunderson said he’s seen people pull over and watch as the sign scrolls through its messages if they can’t get a good look at it while they’re driving.

“If the city is allowed to put things on there, then I think the residents who are paying taxes in this city are allowed to put things on there,” he said. “I agree with supporting the community here when it comes to the businesses and when it comes to events.”

Gunderson mentioned the possibility of being able to tie what’s on the sign to the city’s Facebook page so people could read all messages that continually scroll past so they don’t miss anything.

Gunderson and Miller also talked about the research they’ve both done into what other communities are doing with their electronic signs.

“I think we have the right not to put certain things on there,” Gunderson said.

Miller was worried about attention fatigue in terms of people reading the sign. He said if the sign is constantly scrolling, people would eventually get used to it and would begin not to see the sign anymore.

“There’s a certain redundancy in just scrolling. There has to be something recognizable,” he said.

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