City’s sources of small income cause big headaches for Public Works

Baltimore Avenue banner program deemed unsafe

ZACVK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer

(Nov. 9, 2012) Following the cancellation of last week’s work session due to Hurricane Sandy, the City Council moved at its regular session this past Monday to approve a bevy of Public Works issues that highlighted the continuing struggle of the town to find new revenue streams while keeping overhead low.

Most notably, Public Works Director Hal Adkins disclosed that he had discovered – essentially by accident – that a city program in place since the early 1990s was actually not permitted and considered to be highly dangerous.

Until this week, the city has sold banner space to those who are holding events in the resort and wish to advertise. Such banners are erected by Public Works employees on cables that cross over the street via telephone and electrical poles.

“You’re speaking with the guy who picked out the locations way back when,” Adkins said. The majority of locations are along Baltimore Avenue, below 15th Street, although there is one on the Route 90 bridge for travelers entering town.

“It was a very informal process at the time,” Adkins said.

Recently, Adkins began to shop around for a new banner location, after a homeowner near the former banner location at 11th Street complained that wind noise and vibration was causing an undue disturbance for his family.

But when he approached Delmarva Power and Light about the new site, he was informed that the city’s electric provider was apparently unaware that the banners spanned the street, a practice that DP&L has disallowed for several years.

“When I approached Delmarva, I was informed that current safety policies essentially make those banners illegal,” Adkins said.

“Based on some serious problems we’ve experienced, we no longer allow this practice,” Delmarva Power representative Jim Smith wrote in an email to Adkins. “I believe the breaking point came several years ago in another town when wind got into a banner that spanned across a street. The banner wrapped into the primary, causing a fire, damage, blown fuses and an outage. At that point, it was deemed that the practice had severe safety implications and now we do not allow it.”

Subsequently, Adkins told council, it was his recommendation “that the banner project on Baltimore Avenue cease immediately.”

In a similar vein, Adkins also highlighted two other small streams of revenue for the city that had also created logistical difficulties. The District Court building, which is part of the city’s Public Safety complex on 65th Street, has a serious roof leak where the court roof meets the city’s police headquarters. Adkins said it will soon affect the carpeting, drywall, and has will create possible mold issues.

Since the city leases the building to the court, it is obligated as a landlord to fix structural issues. The roof work will cost $36,000.

Adkins also recommended that the city extend its contract with Direct Media for the design of advertising on the city’s buses. An error in the bid specification for the new contract has meant that a new specification has to be prepared and approved by the Maryland Transportation Authority, which subsidizes the city’s public transit system and partners with it in its operation.

“When you realize how long it’s going to take to get that concurrence on the new contract [with the MTA], and that you’re required by the MTA to advertise for 30 days … take my word, at this point we will be lucky to have another vendor by early spring,” Adkins said.

This would leave too little prep time for the lucrative summer advertising season, Adkins said.

“It is my recommendation to issue another amendment at this time to extend the current contract through the upcoming summer,” he said.

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