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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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Council nixes Windom signs (01/26/2014)
By Chris Rogers

Submitted image
     A rendering of the proposed design for event signs and park signs. Image may not be to scale. The council gave initial approval to the design.
The Winona City Council plans to remove both event signs from Windom Park and replace them with two new signs, estimated to cost almost $3,000 each, at Central Park (behind the Post Office) and Bambenek Fields (Franklin and Sarnia streets). The council also indicated support for another plan that would include a more costly and decorative style of sign and a commitment to using them for numerous upcoming sign projects. The council gave preliminary approval to the park signage plan proposed by city staff last Tuesday, but not without debate about the locations and the virtue of event signs in general.

"It wouldn't break my heart" if the city did not have any event signs in city parks, said council member Gerry Krage. Citizens' complaints that the signs detract from the historic Windom Park and neighborhood spurred city hall debate.

As someone who promotes events with these signs, "I think these are very effective and I'd like to see us continue to have some location [for signs]," Mayor Mark Peterson commented, referring to his job as director of the Winona County History Society. However, "I think Windom Park is a unique park and to remove the signs there would be fine if we could fine two other suitable locations," he continued.

"I like Windom [Park]" as a sign site, said council member Michelle Alexander. "It's a great place for signs; it's where all roads meet."

"I would reluctantly go along with the other two [signs at Central Park and Bambenek Fields], but Windom, I just think is wrong," Krage commented. Peterson agreed.

Council members Paul Double and George Borzyskowski advocated for siting signs in locations that would target non-Winonans. Double suggested a sign next to the entrance to Winona Health at Mankato and Park avenues. Council member Allyn Thurley suggested a sign on the Visitors Center building.

"A lot of the local folks know that these events are happening," Borzyskowski stated. "Advertising community events to visitors coming from out of town they may be attracted to it."

"No, I actually look for those signs to remind me" that local events are occurring, countered Alexander. She added that the current signs were not "eyesores" and that the new, more decorative signs proposed by city staff would alleviate any aesthetic concerns about Windom Park.

A majority of council members supported removing the Windom Park signs and placing new signs elsewhere. Thurley voiced support for the Central Park location, saying, "It's not as aesthetic a park as it once was." However, its location abutting State Highway 43 (Main Street) would be helpful in promoting events, he added. Alexander and Krage accepted that the council majority would not support their divergent wishes: keeping the Windom Park signs and eliminating all event signs, respectively. The two found common ground in supporting Central Park as an acceptable location.

Committed to new sign design, price tag?

City Manager Judy Bodway encouraged the council to make the proposed, more decorative style of signs a citywide standard for park signage to be used in an upcoming project to sign the bluff trails above Holzinger Lodge, a sign honoring the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Lake Park, and in other parks as aging signs are replaced in the future. The council voiced support for the idea.

The proposed signs include a dark brown frame with the park name in silver lettering that would encase four-foot-by-six-foot vinyl or laminate signs. The council agreed the design is more appealing than the plain wooden posts currently holding up plywood signs in Windom Park. Plywood could not be used on the new style of signs. Mayor Mark Peterson noted that prohibition would force many local organizations to purchase new signs.

Staff said that the trail signs above Holzinger Lodge and future park signs may be smaller, and therefore less expensive, than the roughly $3,000 apiece event signs. Bodway explained that staff only looked at one company's offerings when researching the preliminary proposal. Staff mentioned that bids could be sought for the signs, though the city is not required by law to seek them for such small projects.

Bodway mentioned plans for a sign in Lake Park honoring donors to the bike path repaving project, in particular the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. She said that the city had promised the Coca-Cola Bottling Company such a sign and may have made similar promises to other donors. Plans for a donor recognition sign had not been previously discussed during council meetings in 2013. The city has previously expressed a desire to limit adding objects, such as memorial benches, in Lake Park.

Through sales of the last glass bottled Coca-Cola produced in Winona, the company raised approximately $100,000 for the path project. Another, anonymous donor gave $140,000, which was matched by various donors. The city also took $109,000 intended for levee bike path improvements and used it to help fund the Lake Park paving effort.

Further discussion and formal approval of the park sign proposal is expected to take place at the council's next meeting at 6:30 p.m. 


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