Decatur Street/Sewer Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert announced at Tuesday night's city council meeting that the City of Decatur has been awarded $261,900 in federal funds as a sign replacement grant.
The actual grant is $291,000, of which the City of Decatur is responsible for 10 percent, or $29,100. Through the funds, most of the signs in the city will be replaced and some added.
Decatur was one of 10 communities that was granted a total of $2,481,500 to make sign replacements, the grants to be administered through the State of Indiana.
"This takes a huge burden off our backs trying to comply with the new (federal) requirements on signs," Gilbert said. "In August, we decided to apply for a grant that would pay 90 percent of the total sign replacement cost. That includes engineering, inspections, and all the jazz that goes with the replacement process."
On January 22 of 2008, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) made major changes to the uniform traffic code, altering the minimum reflectivity standards. Communities were told to do the following;
• Assess the signs on their roads and develop a replacement plan within four years
• Replace non-compliant warning and regulatory signs within seven years
• Replace guidance and street name signs within 10 years
"By getting this grant we can meet those requirements before the mandated dates," Gilbert said.
Safety is another factor. "With the replacement of the signs we are going to greatly improve the safety and well-being of the citizens of Decatur," Gilbert said.
It was shortly after the the government mandate that Gilbert, Board of Works member Bill Karbach and city police Sgt. Chris Brite launched a sign assessment process. Through the past two years, the street department has been replacing some of the signs.
In early September last year, the city applied for the grant, and in late December word came down that it would be receiving $291,900, including the city's 10 percent match.
Other cities receiving sign replacement grants were Angola, Attica, Auburn, Clinton, Crawfordsville, Gas City, Monticello, New Castle and Richmond.
Gilbert said he and Mayor John Schultz recently met with Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) officials to start the process of making the sign replacements.
Over the next few months, the city will be hiring a consultant (required by INDOT) to handle the inventory and engineering process. The consultant will be paid through the city's 10 percent match. Once the inventory process is completed, INDOT will handle the bidding process to hire a contractor to do the sign replacement.
City officials hope the bidding will take place in late July or early August, and that the entire process can be finished by the end of 2011.
The update of the city's Comprehensive Plan had signage as a focus, Gilbert noted. "A consistent signage strategy brings uniformity to the look and message of the city," he continued. "It can positively influence the city's marketing efforts and serve the sharpen the focus of the community."
The comp plan includes suggestions on signage upgrades and the addition of signs which provide information, such as the location of City Hall and Riverside Center. So over the next month city officials will be reviewing those suggestions and discussing any other possible signage needs, Gilbert remarked.
Gilbert said public input on sign placement and the like would be helpful.