The sign at the former Colony Theatre location in Hillsboro was approved by city council and the city’s design review board, despite comments made by two council members at a meeting last month, according to meeting minutes provided by council president Tom Eichinger.
Council member Ann Morris said last month that after reviewing the minutes of past council meetings, council never approved the digital sign. Council member Patty Day voiced her agreement with Morris.
“From what the November (Hillsboro Design Review Board) minutes state, the design review board (DRB) did approve the digital sign, with the stipulation of approving the design drawing, and final approval,” Morris said. “It was explained to the DRB that the purchase orders must be in place by November 2020 for the Cares Act money. The same month, council was not informed what the money would be used for. We were not aware until the digital sign was installed this spring. The Cares Act Money project did not have to be completed until the end of 2021. Plenty of time to go through all of the proper channels and let the citizens as well as council voice an opinion.”
However, meeting minutes from both council meetings and design review board meetings contradict Morris’ statement.
On April 1 of this year, Eichinger sent the following email to all council members: “There appears to be some confusion about what, if anything, council members knew about the Colony Park marquee and digital communication signs. Also, there were some questions about what role, if any, council played in the acquisition.”
Eichinger’s email goes on to explain the following:
* The minutes of an Oct. 30, 2020 precouncil meeting were sent to council members via email that same afternoon. In those minutes, under the CARES update, it says: “Marquee Digital signage will be purchased with monies and erected in Colony Park. This will be a valuable tool for information to be seen by the public and on the digital sign marquee.”
* The minutes from the Nov. 18, 2020, the Dec. 16, 2020 and the Jan. 20, 2021 design review board meetings, which are available on the city website and which will be included in the monthly council packet from now on, each refer to “COA 20-23 City of Hillsboro 124 N. High Street Marquee digital display” with the approval. Eichinger said he attached a copy of those minutes to the email.
* “The minutes of the Nov. 9, 2020 Hillsboro City Council meeting, which you get as part of next month’s Council Packet, under FIRST READING OF ORDINANCES & RESOLUTIONS, Resolution 29-47 was presented by Auditor (Alex) Butler and (safety service director Brianne) Abbott as to what the cares act funds would be spent on and the marquee signage was specifically mentioned. The resolution was approved and adopted by council.”
The precouncil meetings include Eichinger, Butler, public works superintendent Shawn Adkins, Abbott, mayor Justin Harsha and council clerk Kim Newman.
Another precouncil email update sent by Newman to all council members on Oct. 30, 2020 says Butler advised that money had been awarded to the city and city did not need to have the money spent by Dec. 31, 202o, but did need to have the funds allocated for use by Dec. 31, 2020. “Marquee Digital signage will be purchased with (CARES Act) monies and and erected in Colony Park. This will be a valuable tool for information to be seen by the public on the digital sign marquee,” the email said.
The minutes from a Nov. 9, 2020 city council meeting state that Resolution 20-47 had its first reading, and that a digital sign message board is a potential use for some of the CARES Act funds.
The minutes from a Nov. 18, 2020 Hillsboro Design Review Board meeting state a motion was made by “Nicole Chambers to approve COA 20-23, the City of Hillsboro application for a digital marquee sign for the Colony Space. The marquee sign is to be purchased with CARES ACT funds. Approval with the condition that designs come back to the Design Review Board for review and final approval.”
Abbott, a member of the design review board, abstained from the vote on the motion. Votes to approve the motion were given by Betty Ann Walker, John Kellis and Chambers. Avery Applegate voted against the motion. The motion was approved.
The minutes from a Dec. 16, 2020 design review board meeting state that the sign was discussed again. They say Abbott had Chad Abbott Signs (Chad Abbott is Brianne Abbott’s husband) create a design for the sign with some adjustments from comments and suggestions at a prior meeting. They say Abbott provided each member of the board with a copy of the design.
Minutes from a Jan. 20, 2021 design review board meeting discuss design review board chairman Kellis talking with DS2, a Hillsboro company the city has used for various design suggestions, and Harsha telling the design review board that was not acceptable because the city was the client of DS2, not the design review board. The minutes say the discussion could have compromised the fabrication of the marquee and cost the city a lot of money that was not appropriated.
Those same minutes say it was due to courtesy that the city brought the marquee design to the design review board, and that Kellis understood the limitations the city was under due to CARES Act funding. The minutes say Harsha said it was the hope of the city that the sign could be expanded on in the future to look more like what the design review board wanted, but at the time the money was not available.
Applegate asked that her opposition to the sign be reflected again, according to the minutes.
A motion was made by Walker, according to the minutes, that language be added in the design review board manual restricting the use of digital signage/technology in the historic district with the exemption of branded/governmental format, and Applegate seconded the motion. All board members voted to approve the motion.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.