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Councillors wave bye to gateway sign

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton’s proposed $230,000 gateway sign for Highway 403 isn’t welcomed in the city any more.

Councillors agreed to wait until the 2015 budget deliberations to determine a proper location and cost for the sign before approving it for the one area.

“The clock has run out,” said Dundas councillor Russ Powers.

Added Mountain councillor Scott Duvall, who had been supportive of the sign in the past, “I don’t see how we care going to get value.”

After a meeting between city staff and provincial Transportation Ministry officials last month, the original location near Highway 6 had to be scrapped, said Rob Norman, manager of landscape architectural services.  He said if the steel and concrete sign was installed where city staff wanted it, the sign would cost more money and the MTO needed to close the road.

A possible new location for the sign was suggested further along Highway 403 near Guelph Road, said Norman. But an access road has to be built at a cost of just over $100,000 to get to the location, and an additional $40,000 for three studies, including archeological, utilities and geo-technical, have to be completed. Complicating the problem is there is a severe grade in the area, he said.

‘We need a detailed design to get a handle” on the location, said Norman.

The extra cost will mean the city could only spend just over $100,000 on the sign, said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark.

“I don’t know what we are getting for $230, 000,” said Clark. “We don’t have real costs here.”

Enthusiasm for the sign also dipped after City Manager Chris Murray said a crowd funded effort, lead by business person Laura Babcock last month to raise private money to help defer some of the costs of the sign, was temporary suspended. About $360 was raised for the sign.

“It’s hard to partner (with private businesses) if they don’t know where the money is going,” said Murray.

He acknowledged further design on the location and sign needs to be done.

The failed private funding effort only enhanced Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins’ position to scrap the sign idea. Or at the very lease defer it to the budget negotiations that are scheduled to begin in January after the municipal elections.

He said the calls and emails to him on the sign have been overwhelmingly negative.

A few politicians still wanted Hamilton to have its own welcome sign. Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, who recently returned from a trip to Elliot Lake, said most of the small communities he drove through had some sort of gateway sign identifying their village or town.

“Other communities are making the investment,” he said. “It creates a sense of pride. We are the exception to the rule.”

Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson agreed. A trip to Barrie recently also highlighted how some municipalities have installed welcoming signs, she said.

Stoney Creek installed a gateway sign on the QEW at Fifty Road in the 1990s, she said.

But Clark pointed out the cost for those other community signs are estimated to be around $200,000.

He said the Battlefield House and Museum sign at the corner of Centennial Parkway and King Street was nearly $300,000. And the Gateway sign in Grimsby along the QEW cost nearly half a million dollars, he said.

The gateway sign along Highway 403 was selected by city staff as the first of a planned four other gateway signs at key entry points to Hamilton. The Highway 403 location was picked first because of the Pan Am Games. The costs associated with installing four gateway signs could top $1 million. Those locations include Alberton, and QEW and Fifty Road.

The city is already planning on installing temporary signs and banners in preparation of the Pan Am Games, said Mike Kirkopoulos, corporate communications manager. Already on the official Transportation Ministry signs Hamilton is being identified as the ‘home’ of the Pan Am Games.

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