Banners seemingly without owners

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NATCHEZ — Banners across Main Street welcome visitors and announce special events, but when banners are left up for more than a week after the event is over, those special occasions start growing stale.

But as to whose responsibility it is to take down the banners, the answer depends on whom you ask. The planning department says it’s the responsibility of the organization in charge of the event. The traffic department tries to put up and take down banners as a public service but doesn’t always get to it immediately.

“I’m not aware of the city being responsible for putting banners up,” Mayor Phillip West said. “I see banners up, but I don’t know who puts them up.”

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If a business or organization wants to hang a banner across Main Street, they must fill out an application in the city planning office, City Land Use Planner Walter Huston said.

According to city code, temporary signs have certain restrictions. Street banners advertising a public event are to be removed within two days after the event.

Seasonal or special occasion signs can’t be installed more than two weeks before the activity described and have to be removed two days after the event.

In recent months, banners for events have remained draped over Main Street for more than a week and a half after the event.

Huston said he has not heard any complaints about banners.

Huston said he usually gives organizations a week or so to take the banner down before he calls them and reminds them to take it down.

“We try to work with the business community, especially if they request to keep their banner up a little bit longer than the permit period,” he said.

If they don’t take it down, the city planning department can call public works to take down the banner. That doesn’t happen often, Huston said.

There are some exceptions to the time limit, Huston said. People can re-apply to keep their banner up for an extended period of time.

“For Pilgrimage and big events, we will give them more leeway time,” he said. “I want them to advertise the city.”

The reason behind the code is looks, Huston said.

“In the historic district, it’s definitely for aesthetic reasons,” he said. “No community wants to have a bunch of signs. It takes away from the community itself.

“They don’t want to have the streets and neighborhoods clogged with signs.”

The current banner advertises last week’s Art & Soul festival and Fall Pilgrimage.

The annual festival is sponsored by Natchez Downtown Development Association.

NDDA President Bill Furlow said he thought the public works department was in charge of removing the banners.

“We have contacted them and asked them to take that down,” he said.

Furlow said he thought it was important for old banners to be taken down because they could be distracting.

Art & Soul committee member Sally Durkin volunteered to arrange for the banner for Art & Soul to be hung across Main Street.

“I was asked to make sure it got put up, but nobody asked me to make sure it got taken down,” she said.

Durkin said she did not know about any procedure required to hang banners. Durkin, city media liaison, works closely with city departments, so she said she knew the traffic department took care of hanging and taking down banners.

“I put it on (Traffic Director) Rick (Freeman’s) chair with a note that said, ‘Please hang this across Main Street,’ and it was done the next day,” Durkin said. “I just took it to the person I knew would get it done.”

The city traffic department often puts up and takes down banners for organizations.

“We use the bucket truck,” Rick Freeman said.

While the planning department puts the responsibility in the hands of the organization, Freeman said his department tries to keep track of events and take down the banners.

“I guess we really do it for public relations,” he said. “If somebody calls, and they’ve had approval from planning, we’ll put the banner up.”

The department tries to get the banner down as soon as possible, but it doesn’t always happen within the two days the code mandates.

“We’ve got a lot of other things going on beyond just taking banners down,” Freeman said.

The department is in charge of maintaining traffic signs and signals, among other things, he said.

They usually try to get banners down the week after an event.

“If somebody wants to call us and remind us, that’s fine,” he said.