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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Elizabethton street director warns of campaign sign problems

March 16th, 2014 9:11 pm by John Thompson

Elizabethton street director warns of campaign sign problems

ELIZABETHTON — It happens every election. As candidates begin their run for local offices, their supporters begin placing small signs in yards all across town.

These signs are perfectly legal and protected by the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech.

But some supporters also place signs on city right of way, and that is a violation of a city ordinance.

Danny Hilbert, director of the Elizabethton Street and Sanitation Department, said there are good reasons for not allowing the signs to be placed in the right of way.

One of the most immediate problems is the signs often are placed so that they obstruct a motorist’s view at intersections, which could lead to accidents.

Another problem is that the right of way is there for a purpose. They provide workers with access to city utilities, and the signs just get in the way of the city utility workers trying to perform their important job.

Hilbert said another problem has not started yet, but will soon become the most difficult problem once the spring growing season commences. The signs get in the way of city employees trying to mow the grass in the right of way. In an attempt to keep taxes low, the city has only a few employees to keep the right of way mowed and looking presentable. When this crew has to stop to pick up signs all along the right of way, it cuts into mowing time and puts the crew behind schedule.

Hilbert said the ordinance was made for these reasons. Signs that are in violation will be removed, Hilbert said.

“They will be kept for 30 days and the candidates can come and pick them up at the city garage,” he said.

After 30 days, the signs are thrown away.

Hilbert said political signs are the majority of the problem at the moment, but his crews also remove temporary business signs and others that have been placed in the right of way on a year-round basis.

Bryan Scott, code enforcement officer for the city, said the placing of signs in the right of way is a violation of the city code and could result in fines and costs totalling $103.75.

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