Construction of new sign finally underway

STEUBENVILLE — After being back-burnered for several years, construction of a new “Welcome to Steubenville” sign has finally begun at the Washington Street and state Route 7 intersection.

Mayor Jerry Barilla, a long-time champion of the project, said $10,000 for the sign was penciled into the city budget “a few years back.”

“It was brought to my attention it was still in the works, it was in the budget for this year,” he said. “I’m totally happy — elated.”

Barilla said the project as originally conceived had featured LED lighting and an LED message board and a walkway, along with a $100,000 price tag. The committee had gone so far as to pick the bricks that would be a part and even enlisted sponsors willing to pay for it but the deal stalled — not because of the hefty cost, but because it would be viewable from Route 7 and thus required special approval from the Ohio River Scenic Byways Committee. The Historic Byways Committee refused to sign off on that, so it went back to the drawing board — this time under the auspices of the Steubenville Revitalization Group, which nixed the LED lighting.

He said the Steubenville Revitalization Group, of which he was a member, tried to revive the plan and came up with a new design, without the LED lighting and message board, which brought the price tag down closer to $50,000. Without the potential for advertising, however, sponsors were lukewarm to that idea as well.

“When the LED lighting was eliminated, there wasn’t much interest in doing it and the deal fell apart,” Barilla said.

But with more tweaking, Barilla said they now have a simple but beautiful design that will enhance one of the busiest intersections in the city. The new design features the city seal on a 10-foot-by-10-foot concrete block base faced with decorative bricks, LED floodlights and the all-important “Welcome to Steubenville” message.

“The entrance at Route 7 and Washington is the main entrance to our city, it should have a welcoming sign to invite people in,” Barilla said. “It’s like a doormat that you roll out and it says to people, ‘stop here.'”

Ed Rice of Signs Limited is the contractor. St. Thomas Construction is laying the block and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 246 is buying the LED lights and arranged their installation. The City of Steubenville will pay for the electricity and maintain the site.

Barilla said the sign should be done by mid-August.

“It’s been on my radar for a long time,” Barilla said. “It’s all about aesthetics, how you look (to outsiders), the presentation of the city. You see it everyday. On television, advertisers appeal to your senses to try and get you to buy things. People want to go where they see nice things. Signage, cleanliness and appearance — those are a driving force to bringing people here.”