Council wants different options for new borough hall sign

PHOENIXVILLE — With the new borough hall project slated to wrap up in about two months, the majority of borough council members expressed a desire to see signs designed differently than the one currently drawn up.

Plans for the sign at the new borough hall attached to the current district courthouse provided for a monument-style design featuring an electronic component used to display messages.

At Tuesday’s borough council meeting, Borough Manager Jean Krack said he understood council members had differing opinions on it, but the sign in the plans “is a start.”

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“I’ve got so many problems with this I don’t know where to begin,” said council member Dana Dugan.

The main concern presented was that the sign did not present the same historical aesthetic as others in town.

A large part of that was tied up in the electronic component.

“So many different places have asked for these kinds of signs and we have continuously denied them because that’s not what our guidelines tell us to do,” said Dugan, a member of the town’s Historical Architecture Review Board.

Although an ordinance exists that allows the town to use electronics in municipal signs, Dugan said everyone should have to play by the same rules and the borough should be no exception.

Krack said the messages on the LED board would include road closures as well as municipal events and reminders, but Dugan had concerns that eventually advertising possibilities might prove to enticing.

“At what point down the line, when we have a budget shortfall, do we have half-off drinks at your local pub,” displayed, Dugan said.

“It takes away from the character of the town,” she added. “It’s very Las Vegas-looking.”

A rendering of the plans for the sign was unavailable to The Mercury.

Council Vice President Mike Speck felt differently than Dugan.

“As much as my colleague is against it, I’m for it for the sole purpose of the tremendous amount of communication that the borough could get coming and going,” Speck said. “I thought I might have been old-fashioned but I don’t see what’s Las Vegas about it. I see it blending in.”

Despite Speck’s feelings, he appeared to be very much in the minority on council.

“I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we approve this with the electronic portion,” said councilman James Kovaleski. “I don’t really see the value added, Mr. Speck.”

Messages like Amber Alerts and emergency weather events were what Speck thought made an electronic sign important.

Council President Rich Kirkner said messages like that would be more important on Route 23 than on Bridge Street.

“If you want to get information out to people in Phoenixville, you put it on (Route) 23,” he said.

Mayor Leo Scoda also doubted the usefulness of a sign like that at the new borough hall.

“By the time you get to the next part (of the message), you’ve already driven by it,” he said.

Kirkner, echoing others, voiced support for “a tasteful, static sign that reminds people they are in a historic community in a historic area.”

Eventually, Councilwoman Jen Mayo asked for several different options to pick from, like council did for things like the facade of the new hall.

“I’m not saying I’m for or against an electronic sign,” Mayo said, “but I think we need to see more.”

Bringing up the sign at the meeting was in the effort to gauge council opinion.

“The purpose of this whole process is to afford you the opportunity to maximize what you want to do to your building,” Krack said. “There’s no ownership here. You’ve got the greatest opportunity to get the right building for municipal purposes.”

Krack said the sign was council’s decision but urged them to move quickly because the scheduled move-in date to the new building is August 5.

“It is important to discuss it rather quickly because whatever we do, I need to discuss with the contractor and we are coming up on end-game,” Krack said.

According to Krack, if everything stays on schedule, the council’s first meeting in the new borough hall could be the one scheduled for Aug. 13.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.