By ANDREA AGARDY
Motorists driving past the Tullahoma Utilities Board (TUB) office on South Jackson Street in the next few weeks may experience a sense of déjà vu if they look over and notice a crew installing an electronic sign in front of the building. The utility has opted to upgrade the sign it installed last spring to a higher-resolution model.
Last week TUB sold the 5-by-8.5-foot sign to the City of Winchester for $19,600, said Brian Skelton, the utility’s general manager.
TUB commissioners voted to spend $50,000 to buy the sign last March, and it has been operating in front of the office for roughly two months. At the time of the vote, board members were pleased with the sign’s price tag, noting they had anticipated the sign would cost twice as much.
Upgrading the sign will cost TUB an additional $25,000, but Skelton pointed out the new total cost of $75,000 still comes in below the original $100,000 estimate. The purpose of the sign, the general manager said, is to promote TUB and the services the utility offers – in particular LightTUBe television, Internet and telephone services. The new sign will have four times the resolution of the original, Skelton said, allowing TUB to display crisp video clips of area football games and snippets of TUB’s programming.
Skelton said TUB officials realized immediately after the sign was installed that an upgrade would be necessary, adding that is why the sign’s brick base has not been completed. Once the new sign is installed he said the structure will be completed, a project that will include the installation of trim work and a backlit TUB logo. The new sign will have the same dimensions as the existing board.
“Nothing about the sign will change other than the video board,” Skelton said.
Winchester City Administrator Beth Rhoton said the sign will be placed at Winchester City Park on Highway 130 on Tims Ford Lake. It will be used to advertise the tournaments, sports competitions and other events the park hosts.
“We get tons and tons of calls about when events are happening in the park,” she said, adding the sign has been on Winchester’s “wish list” for years.
The city administrator said Winchester had sought grant funding last year to purchase a similar sign, but its application was rejected. The city was planning to seek grant funding again this year, when it heard TUB was planning to sell its sign.
“We’re very excited we had the opportunity,” Rhoton said. “It was just fate, I think…We were fortunate that we had the money budgeted and didn’t have to go back and ask for it.”
While the city could afford to purchase the sign, it did not have the cash on hand to cover the expenses of transporting the sign from Tullahoma or building the base. Luckily, some of the sports teams and civic organizations that volunteered last year to help with the matching funds that would have been necessary had the grant application been approved, have stepped up to cover the relocation costs. Although she did not know the exact figures, Rhoton estimated that the community has contributed between $3,000 and $4,000.
Rhoton said the city is fast-tracking the project, estimating the sign could be up and running in Winchester within a couple of weeks. The preferred location for the sign is alongside a state road, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation will have to issue a permit before the base can be built there. In the meantime, the sign will be mounted on a pole until the permitting and base construction processes are completed.
Andrea Agardy can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.