BY LINDA BENTLEY | NOVEMBER 17, 2010
Carefree authorizes $10,000 toward improved signage
‘The sundial signs are not effective and A-frames are no longer allowed on Cave Creek Road and Tom Darlington’
Howard Bertram of Bertram Signs explained the two-sided generic “post” signs displayed on the screen as part of the Carefree Business Association’s proposal for improved directional signs into the town’s business district during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Photos by Linda Bentley
CAREFREE – With councilmen Bob Coady and Peter Koteas absent, council voted unanimously in favor of canvassing the Nov. 2 General Election on Tuesday, pending the final certification by Maricopa County Elections.
Council also voted unanimously in favor of canceling its fire hydrant inspection agreements between Carefree Water Company and the Cave Creek Utility Department.
While reviewing ways to cut expenses, Town Administrator Gary Neiss said he learned there was another way to have the fire hydrants inspected and that was through the town’s master contract with Rural/Metro, at no additional expense to the town.
Other than the financial benefit to the town, Neiss said it will help Rural/Metro become more familiar with all the hydrant locations in town.
According to Neiss, Carefree initially entered into the agreement with Cave Creek Water Company, when it was under the ownership of J. George.
The contract was for two years and automatically renewed unless canceled with 90 days notice. The contract continued with the town of Cave Creek after it purchased the water company with the current contract ending in March.
Neiss said the town currently pays $10 per hydrant per month and budgets $50,000 per year.
He said canceling the agreement would also save Cave Creek time and money.
Councilman Bob Gemmill commented, “I don’t see a downside. It’s a no-brainer.”
Councilwoman Susan Vanik confirmed before voting that all concerned were “on board” with the decision, including Stan Francom.
Neiss introduced the next item, discussion and possible action regarding the Carefree Business Association’s (CBA) recommendations for signage and authorization of funds, which was continued from the last council meeting.
Neiss said he and Vice Mayor Glenn Miller met with CBA and stated, “They’ve come up with some suggestions,” at a cost of $19,081, which he had Chuck Wesley of Cooper’s Gallery and Howard Bertram of Bertram Signs present.
Wesley told council, “The sundial signs are not effective and A-frames are no longer allowed on Cave Creek Road and Tom Darlington,” causing potential Carefree customers to bypass Carefree and drive into Cave Creek for dining and shopping.
As Phase I of the three-phase plan, CBA recommended four-foot by four-foot temporary signs that were generic in nature to direct people to shops, dining, the sundial and amphitheater.
Wesley said they should be installed in the ground with concrete until the town could afford permanent signs where there are currently none, with the exact locations to be determined.
The cost for those signs was approximately $5,000.
For Phase II, he said Bertram provided a firm quote of $14,118 to install new panels on the existing sundial signs that were more eye-catching.
At that point, Koteas called in from out of town to appear telephonically. Bertram explained the sign panels were made of a half-inch plywood type material made with waterproof glue. He said they could be clear-coated every year or two for $100 per sign for an indefinite life and stated some of his signs have been in use for 10 years.
Phase III of the plan would include merchant sign directories, the cost of which Wesley stated would be borne entirely by the merchants.
He spoke about how the $19,081 cost for Phase I and II would be returned to the town in the form of increased sales tax revenue.
Wesley explained it would require $636,000 in additional sales, which he said, amortized over three years, would be very realistic to expect monthly increases in sales of $17,700.
Miller said he was a little concerned that the proposed modifications to the sundial signs were going to block the line of sight for drivers at some locations.
Mayor David Schwan asked how many of the signs would be a problem.
Miller said he’d probably have to review the locations but stated, “I love the signs. They’re eye-popping.”
Gemmill suggested cropping the signs to be parallel with the post.
Koteas expressed concern that the carryover of the last meeting to explore alternative signage to attract people had morphed into something more, pointing out thousands of people were attracted to Carefree during last year’s Christmas Festival.
He said, “One month ago we approved money to advertise. We don’t have any indication that’s going to work. We have no assurance it will have any effect … We keep spending.”
Councilman Doug Stavoe reintroduced Koteas’ suggestion about modifying the sundial signs to replace the “gas lamp district” panel with an arrow.
Miller stated he didn’t like the Phase III sign designs at all and suggested Phase I-type signs with merchant’s names. He said, “We could sell spaces,” and questioned why they should be generic.
He said, “The town could put in the signs and the merchants could pay for space.”
Vanik stated Thunderbird Art Festival had the largest turnout they’d ever had and said, “So, people know where Carefree is.”
However, she said she thought the signs were a great idea.
Stavoe was concerned over charging for space and asked who would decide which businesses would go the signs.
Neiss suggested it was critical for at least the anchors and said, “Perhaps give the restaurants top billing.”
Miller said he could think of 16 locations for the new signs.
Koteas said, “There’re a lot of assumptions going on here. There are no guarantees signs will increase business.”
Neiss responded, “There are a lot of assumptions. You can spin it any way you want it.”
During public comment Pat Wesley was taken aback by council’s recommendation to charge $100 for a spot on the sign and suggested charging more in the line of $1,000.”
She said some of the merchants advertise in Phoenix Home and Garden where the cost of an ad is $5,000.
While stating she liked the direction council was taking, Wesley said, “If you charge enough, you’ll end the quibbling.”
Schwan said council really needed to work out the details and suggested continuing the item.
However, Chuck Wesley reminded council the Christmas season was upon them and if they acted now, improved signage could be in place in time for the Christmas Festival.
Jo Gemmill, owner of the English Rose Tea Room, addressed Koteas’ statement and said it’s both (advertising and signage), not either or. She said, “You advertise and put up a sign so people know where it is.”
Jim Peirce said he’d like to see the detailed final plan.
Stavoe said council continued the agenda item from the last meeting to look into generic signs to ensure lack of clutter and stated, “We’ve kind of gone off on a different path …”
Schwan called the process “organic.”
Neiss said the planning commission is reviewing code for signs on private property but these signs, since they would be town signs, would be exempt from ordinances.
Melissa Price stated she wouldn’t want to see a lot of signs on the main road but agreed restaurant names on post signs was a good idea and said she liked Koteas’ idea to change “gas lamp” to an arrow.
Councilman Gemmill said the positioning of the signs was critical.
Schwan suggested authorizing a specific number of signs and an amount of money not to exceed and said he was willing to take a certain amount of risk.
Stavoe said he was more inclined to make what the town currently has more effective and would rather have a more specific plan.
Pat Wesley reminded council the original purpose was to address the arteries that currently have no signage.
While council described placement of signs on Tom Darlington on the northbound side of the road, Koteas asked, “Does no one travel south on Tom Darlington?”
He suggested rather than double-sided signs, place at least two single-sided signs facing southbound traffic.
Miller’s motion to approve, at a cost not to exceed $10,000, four double-sided signs and two single-sided signs with locations to be determined in the field; plus change the “gas lamp” designations on all the existing sundial signs to an arrow, passed unanimously.