Bedford Town Manager responds to civic sign debate

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By Tom Wilmoth

Bedford Town Manager Bart Warner issued the following statement related to the civic sign issue from last night's Council meeting:

The issue related to the Town-owned civic sign structures on East Main Street and Blue Ridge Avenue actually has its roots in the state championship won by the Liberty High School softball team in early June and the desire to appropriately commemorate not only that team’s accomplishment, but the fact that it is the fourth different sport in which the school has claimed a title.

1. June 25th. Bryan Schley and I discussed replacing the small LHS state champion signs with an alternate that would be larger in scale. He asked if we could have them installed in time for the August 9th event scheduled to honor the softball team. I advised that the deadline might be difficult to meet but we would try.

2. July 1st. D.W. Lawhorne advised that a vendor could produce two new LHS signs at a cost of $2,100 each with a target date of August 5, 2019 for delivery. I advised him to proceed.

3. July 22nd. D.W. Lawhorne advised me that the signs likely would be ready by August 5th and we discussed possible sites for installation of the new signs. Given their size and the timeframe involved, I directed him to replace the Town-owned civic sign structures on Blue Ridge Avenue and East Main Street with the new LHS signs. We did not discuss a schedule for the replacement, but Public Works removed the civic sign structure on East Main Street at the end of that work week.

4. July 29th. D.W. Lawhorne confirmed that the new LHS signs would be ready for installation prior to the August 9th event. He also told me that he had received a request to keep them covered until one could be unveiled as part of the event itself.

5. Saturday, August 3rd. I received contact information for all organizations that had their logos on the Town-owned signs.

6. August 5th. D.W. Lawhorne advised me that the new LHS sign would be installed shortly at the East Main Street site, and that it would be covered per the request to have them unveiled as part of the August 9th event. That same day I mailed letters to all impacted organizations explaining the course of events and my responsibility for it. My direction to remove the Town-owned structures on East Main Street and Blue Ridge Avenue was based on the following considerations:

7. I felt an obligation to have the new signs installed by August 9th and did not receive information that it was actually possible to meet that deadline until July 22nd;

8. Given the increased size of the new signs I determined that it would not be appropriate for them to be placed within the street right-of-way;

9. I assumed that the Town had rights or permission for the existing Town-owned structures to be placed in their existing locations but that we had no similar rights elsewhere (or the time to negotiate such prior to August 9th); and

10. I underestimated the value of the existing Town-owned structures to the community as well as their specific locations on East Main Street and Blue Ridge Avenue.

The only motivating factor behind these actions was a desire to support, recognize, and honor the school that serves our community. It certainly was not my intent to do so at the expense of any other organization or institution, although I now understand how such a perception was formed.

Ultimately I made an error in coming to a quick decision without considering all factors involved which I regret and for which I apologize.