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Sign change could lure customers off highway

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By April Wright, Reporter

Tourists coming to Galax this summer may get better directions to attractions off the beaten path of U.S. 58, if city council decides to implement a permanent off-premises signage program.

That would direct traffic flow to food and lodging establishments located more than 100 feet off of East Stuart Drive/U.S. 58, council members discussed during Monday's meeting.

But for now, this trial program will be limited for the next six months to two businesses— New River Trail Cabins and Bogeys, both of which requested such signs — until the language for the ordinance can be developed.

If the city opens this program to all businesses located more than 100 feet off the main road, “we would have a forest of signs,” said Mayor C.M. Mitchell. “For now, I think we should limit it to the two businesses that have established an interest.”

“We should approve this on a limited basis and see if it makes a difference,” said Councilman John Garner.

According to City Manager Keith Holland, signs can not exceed 9 square feet and must be mounted to Virginia Department of Transportation standards. Signs can not have any exterior or interior lighting.

Businesses would be responsible for the costs and would pay a $25 fee to the city for installation and obtain the proper permits and applicable fees.

The signs could include the business name and logo, along with a directional arrow pointing which way to turn off the highway.

Each business would be limited to a single sign in a single location, but the signs could be double-sided so they could be seen by drivers in both directions.

As part of this trial period, the city would also erect a sign to direct traffic to the municipal golf course, since Bogeys and the adjacent course seem to go hand in hand, said Holland.

Each business would track sales to determine if the signs have an impact. During the trial program, the staff and planning commission will work on any comprehensive changes to the sign ordinance, determine if this program should be made permanent and if the program should be extended to other types of businesses.

In other action, council:

• set a public hearing for the fiscal year 2009-10 budget for June 1, along with a public hearing for the 2009-10 real estate tax rate. The city proposes to raise the rate two cents to $.57 per $100.

• set a public hearing for ordinance changes, to establish rates and fees in accordance to revenue estimates proposed in the 2009-10 budget for personal property taxes, transient occupancy taxes, meals taxes, motor vehicle licenses, solid waste collection rates and water and sewer rates.

• approved a resolution for the Glendale Road project.

The city advertised in The Gazette a “notice of willingness to hold a public hearing,” but no requests were received. So, a public hearing is not required to move forward with the project.

The city approved the major design features of the proposed project, which suggests leaving the Glendale/U.S. 58 intersection as its present location, making improvements to the turning radius from 58, adding a westbound turn lane, taking out the “slip ramp” near Subway, improving the intersection with Valley Street and adding a retaining wall along Glendale Road. This option would cost $1.3 million and could be complete by November 2011.

Construction would begin in 2010.

• heard from Commissioner of Revenue David Hankley, who asked council to consider amendments to the Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled ordinance to make the relief program more accessible.

• heard from Hankley, who also serves as the Galax fire chief, about efforts made by the Galax Fire Department, including the firehouse's new roof, its payoff of debts associated with additions made to the firehouse and incorporating the Explorer program for youth.

• heard from Susan Clark of the Department of Social Services, on Adult Protective Services Month. Over the past year, there were 38 adult abuse cases.

When this happens, social services investigates and reassesses the situation, sometimes providing counseling, home support and other services.

Adult abuse comes in various forms, she reminded council, including physical, sexual assault, neglect or exploitation of finances.

“This phenomena is overlooked,” she said. “But it is as prevalent as child abuse.”

• set the meeting schedule for May through October. Council meetings, beginning this month, will be held only once a month, on the second Monday of each month.

However, this does not prohibit special called meetings as allowed by law.

Meetings will be held June 8, July 13, Aug. 10, Sept. 14 and Oct. 12. A special called meeting has been set for June 1.

Twice-monthly meetings will resume in November.

• approved a list of surplus equipment to be auctioned off to the public.

• approved a request to allow a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Twin County Veterans' Memorial beside the Galax Public Library on May 25 at 10 a.m.

• announced that the Galax High School dedication ceremony will be held May 28 at 6 p.m. Galax School Board members have invited city council to join them in an open house and dedication of the recently renovated GHS.

• approved a resolution, which will be submitted to the Region 2 Workforce Investment Board, to encourage job training programs for call centers.

• announced that Myrna Holder, secretary of the City of Galax, will retire May 29. Council thanked Holder for her long-term dedication to the city.

• heard from Pam Hall of Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia, who wants to build awareness about their programs. Hall said Brain Injury Services helps those who have suffered head injuries resulting from tumors, strokes, aneurysms and accidents.

Brain Injury Services helps clients through counseling and life skill programs.

Local Vicky Musser, who suffered an aneurysm, spoke of how Hall had assisted her in her recovery through support groups.