For years, the City of Powell has allowed citizens to announce their coming events with banners hung above Bent Street, near Coulter Avenue. Now, however, city officials are questioning whether the program is worth the hassle.
While the city only charges citizens $15 a week to display their banner on the suspended wires, it costs more than twice that sum in staff time, said City Administrator Zane Logan; it also creates safety issues for the workers who have to park a bucket truck in the street and hoist the banners.
Plus, the flimsy plastic signs that people usually want to display often rip apart in Wyoming’s wind.
“Quite frankly, sometimes the look of a half-torn [banner] or one hanging down from one side or the other… just doesn’t really look good for the downtown,” Logan told the Powell City Council on Monday.
Acting on those concerns, the council voted unanimously to take an initial step toward ending the banner permit program. Doing away with the banner permits would require repealing or altering a section of city code, so any changes would need to pass three separate readings — meaning any changes are at least a month-and-a-half away from being finalized.
“There would be plenty of time for the public to actually have their input, of course, if there’s some side of that we hadn’t thought about,” Logan said.
A total of 29 banners were hung above the street in the last fiscal year (July 2017 to June 2018), down from 43 that were hung the year before, according to city data.
Only community events or announcements can be displayed, with “political solicitations and commentary” specifically prohibited. Powell’s ordinance specifically says the city “is not responsible for any damage caused to the banner whatsoever.”
The city collected $705 in revenue from banners last year, but Logan estimates it cost roughly $1,160 in staff time and resources to hang them. That pencils out to a $455 loss.
Beyond the revenue, aesthetics and safety, however, Logan questioned whether the banners are necessary — particularly since the Powell Chamber of Commerce recently installed an electronic sign on Coulter Avenue for community events.
“... I just think there’s lots of opportunities to get the word out,” Logan said.
Councilman Jim Hillberry said his experience has been that there are only a couple points on Bent Street where an approaching driver can clearly see the banners; Hillberry said the chamber’s new sign gets as much traffic and better usage.
However, councilmen Steve Lensegrav and Floyd Young said they rarely drive by the chamber.
While the banners are “kind of an eyesore,” there are many times when “that’s how I see what’s going on downtown,” Lensegrav said, adding, “I think they do get information out.”
Although they voted to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would repeal the banner program, council members said they want to gather feedback from Powell residents and Mayor John Wetzel; Wetzel and Councilwoman Lesli Spencer were both absent on Monday.
Powell City Attorney Sandee Kitchen said she’d have a proposed ordinance ready for the council’s consideration at their Feb. 18 meeting.