It’s not quite a dead idea, but it’ll be at least another year before Hamilton decides whether to install an official gateway sign.
City councillors voted Monday to defer the issue of a $230,000 welcome sign to the 2015 budget at the earliest. It came amid concerns that the sign was too expensive, and that price tag is still just an estimate.
“I really would like to send this whole thing back and bring it back with a proper plan,” said Coun. Brenda Johnson of Ward 11.
The city will spend $36,000 on preliminary plans to nail down the exact cost of a gateway sign, which would go near the intersection of Highways 403 and 6.
While initial estimates peg it at $230,000, there are still too many unknowns, including surveying the land, the costs involved of closing a lane on the highway to make way for workers and building a path to get to the roadside sign, city manager Chris Murray said.
The city was looking for sponsorship opportunities, but there have been no takers so far because sponsors don’t know exactly what they’re paying for, Murray said.
An online crowdsourcing campaign with a goal of $23,000 has raised only $350 so far.
Several councillors said they didn’t want to scrap the plan altogether, citing its importance to Hamilton’s image. But they balked at the unknowns in regards to ministry approval and material costs.
Coun. Brad Clark of Ward 9 wasn’t discouraged. Signs are expensive, and they’re a long process, particularly when the Ministry of Transportation is involved, he said. The Stoney Creek sign on the QEW cost $290,000 when it was installed, and that’s without lighting.
Hamilton has four major entrance points, which means ultimately, the city will be looking at four gateway signs, or a $1-million project, he said.
Laura Babcock, a local community activist who runs a public relations firm, initiated the recent push for a sign. The issue has been ongoing for about 12 years. In 2008, it even got so far as a public poll online to vote on the best design, which is the design the city is using now.
Babcock has been helping the city look for sponsorships and initiated a social media campaign with the hashtag #time4sign.
She wasn’t discouraged on Monday, particularly since the city will spend $36,000 on it.
“It sounds as though it’s firmly on the radar and they’ve got a process and a timeline in place,” she said. “It’s not the timeline I was hoping for but at least the project’s continuing.”