Sign wars: Tumlin, council members balk at MHS principal’s sign request
by Nikki Wiley
May 04, 2014 04:00 AM | 4388 views | 9 9 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leigh Colburn
Leigh Colburn
MARIETTA — The principal of Marietta High School has asked the city to pay for a digital sign near the school on Whitlock Avenue, but some council members say it’s not the city’s responsibility.

Leigh Colburn, Marietta High principal, asked members of Marietta City Council on Wednesday night to foot the bill for a digital sign near the school’s campus to advertise city events, school news and shows at the Marietta Performing Arts Center. She estimates a brick sign with landscaping would cost about $125,000 but had no official renderings or price quotes.

The school has absorbed the cost of operating the $8.5 million arts center attached to the high school Colburn maintains is a tourism draw for Marietta.

“We’ve hosted town hall meetings by the (Marietta Police Department) and Attorney General Sam Olens, the MPD Annual Award Dinner and ceremony, performances by Georgia Symphony Orchestra, The Shakespeare Tavern, Georgia Ballet, professional recording artists and numerous other community performing arts groups,” Colburn wrote in a letter to Councilman Johnny Walker, the city’s school liaison.

Colburn said the sign would be a “gateway” to the city and while it wouldn’t be used for advertising businesses, it would be used to promote performances and city-wide events, such as Taste of Marietta.

“I don’t even care if the sign says Marietta High School on it,” Colburn said. “My thought was that it would say, ‘welcome to the city of Marietta.’”

Digital signs are not allowed inside Marietta with the exception of billboards on Interstate 75 and Cobb Parkway. Businesses wanting to put a digital billboard on those roads must remove four static billboards in other locations in the city.

The Board of Zoning Appeals has granted two variances — one for Southern Polytechnic State University and one for The Walker School — but the City Council has never approved digital reader boards to be included on commercial signs.

Marietta City Schools is exempt from the Council’s sign and zoning ordinances because it is a governmental entity.

Councilman Andy Morris said he’s concerned if the city expresses approval of the digital signs for Marietta High School, other organizations, such as churches, will want the same treatment.

Still, Walker said the school system approached the city to be “good neighbors” and should get the council’s backing.

“I think we need to make an exception for the school system and us,” Walker said. “If people get mad about it, maybe we can cross those bridges when we get there.”

It’s possible the sign could be paid for with a city tourism grant, said Councilman Philip Goldstein, noting other city-owned signs have been funded by grants that are subsidized by hotel/motel tax collected in Marietta.

Mayor Steve Tumlin argued the city shouldn’t foot the bill for the sign and noted the school board is able to collect property taxes at a higher rate than the city. Marietta City Schools collect 18 mills while the city’s property tax is just 4 mills.

“I think we all have a lot of projects and a sign is not a core function of this city,” Tumlin said.

Councilman Stuart Fleming, who once served on the Marietta Board of Education, also questioned the need for the city to pay for a sign that would be used by the school system.

“The fact that the school board has $17 million in reserves and can’t figure that out is a little concerning to me, having sat on that board,” Fleming said.

He wants to partner with the school system, but said they should be “a little vested in this.”

Fleming wondered why Marietta Board of Education Chairman Randy Weiner wasn’t present at the meeting with Colburn.

“The chairman from the Board of Education should be out here having this conversation,” Fleming said.

Weiner later told the MDJ the school board hasn’t formally discussed the request.

The school district does have a $17 million reserve fund, Weiner said, but he added the request isn’t about helping out the school system.

“It’s about whether or not the city finds value in a gateway sign advertising citywide events and partnering with the school district,” Weiner said.

Colburn will present possible designs and prices to the city’s parks, recreation and tourism committee at its meeting set for May 20 at City Hall, 205 Lawrence St.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Marietta Taypayer
May 16, 2014
Another "gateway" for the city?? Is something in the water here? Didn't the council just vote for a bridge over Church St. to be the gateway for the city?

Marietta sucks bad. It is poorly ran with incompetent leadership.

There is no way a digital sign costs $125,000 taxpayer dollars. What ever happened to fundraising teaching pimple faced teens what hard work is?
Dave Z
May 05, 2014
Stuart Fleming is as pompous as his name suggests. Why did you fools vote for this clueless politico wannabe?
Kyle Kerig
May 07, 2014
Mr Fleming has a classic case of LMS (little man syndrome). So sad to see. Good luck dealing with him on the council.
Forget them
May 05, 2014
The BOE and high school just needs to build their own sign. Partnership might have been nice, but not needed. Just keep it simple and build it yourself. All the county schools have their own signs - no need to share the space with city if they dont want a part of it.
I like this!!!
May 05, 2014
Cool idea. Some of the digital signs can be really attractive these days. This has a lot of possibility for the city and some for the schools. I guess a partnership makes sense, but I would think the lionshare of cost should lie with the city. As long as the sign is pleasing to the eye, I would like to see this. I don't think these need to be in the historic areas but the major through and entrance ways and even maybe one on the Interstate would be great. I know we could not afford one like Cobb Energy Center's sign, but I read it every day and I am always appreciative to know what is coming up. Basically this signage could serve as an engaging and informative message board for the city, I do think it would worth the money to have one. Im not sure if the city only has the money to fund one that it should be out on Whitlock though, maybe on the loop since it is more central to the city and every one from the east and west side has to get on the loop at some point to get anywhere.
Great Idea!
May 05, 2014
This is a great idea. I would love to see this type of marketing around town not just on Whitlock. I dont get why the council thinks it is the school system's responsibility to market the city. The previous commenter is right, they do sound arrogant. I dont understand why they are jumping on the presenter is it just because it wasnt their idea?
Loving Marietta
May 05, 2014
Ms. Colburn loves Marietta. From just that standpoint alone, she should have been show greater respect. I have served on committees with Ms. Colburn, worked with her through the Chamber of Commerce, served with her on community projects, and I find her to be progressive, creative, and passionate about the city. There are few who do more to promote the city. To me, she just seems tireless. She has a barrel of great ideas regarding partnerships between Marietta and Cobb Schools, Marietta Schools and Parks and Recreation, Marietta Schools and Public Safety, Marietta Schools and the military, Marietta Schools and arts organizations, and Marietta Schools and trade industries. I spent almost an hour and half with her two months ago thinking through collaborative partnerships that could benefit our schools, but mostly our city. I hope when she decides to retire from working the unimaginable hours she works for the school system, she will go to work for the city. We need her passion, her vision, and energy working for the city. I am in disbelief that the city council would be dismissive of her. If she thinks the sign is a good idea, she'll find a way to get it done. If I were sitting as a member of the city council, Id be eager to partner with her. If you are not, you are likely to find yourself on the outside of a good idea looking in because she will find a way to get it done.
Colburn knows
May 05, 2014
This is a great idea....What's the problem with the city using signage to promote the city? I live on the east side of Marietta and I don't always know what is happening on the square or about upcoming arts events and by the time I read about it, Ive missed it. I hope the city will get over itself and invest in her idea. My only suggestion would be that there are couple of these signs around the city.
MHS alum
May 04, 2014
Could Stuart Bleming or The Mayor sound more arrogant?
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