Vidalia mayor, aldermen discuss political sign violations

Published 7:58 pm Friday, February 28, 2020

VIDALIA — Any campaign sign with a surface area larger than 16 square feet within the town limits of Vidalia must come down by Wednesday or will be taken down — whether privately owned or not, town officials said.

Vidalia’s incumbent Board of Aldermen unanimously voted that all candidates — including themselves — are to strictly adhere to an existing campaign sign ordinance during a special-called meeting Wednesday after public attendees spoke out about non-compliant signs.

Vidalia’s campaign sign ordinance states that political signs shall be placed no more than 60 days before the election and shall be removed within three days following the election or conclusion of the campaign. No such sign may exceed 16 square feet in surface area.

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Signs are also prohibited on public rights-of-way by state law.

One of the larger signs to come down is at the former Race Track gas station on Carter Street and advertises, “re-elect Buz Craft mayor” on one side and “re-elect Joey Merrill Vidalia Police Chief” on the other, Craft said.

“A supporter of ours bought and paid for that sign and put it up,” Craft said, adding it would have to come down.

Concerned citizen Roy King III said he took it upon himself to measure signs and found that many of them were out of compliance at 32 square feet.

Craft said that the street department would begin to pick up the signs that were still left out after Wednesday next week and that fines could be imposed by the Vidalia Police Department for future offenders.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Alderwoman Sabrina Doré said the owners of signs placed on public property could be issued a $100 fine while owners of signs that violate size restrictions could receive a $500 fine.

Doré said the number of non-compliant campaign signs should not have gotten so far out of hand before the ordinance was enforced and proposed immediate action.

“There should not have to be a public outcry for the enforcers in this town to enforce the codes and laws that exist,” Doré said. “… Candidates who are running for office and are saying ‘please vote for me because I want to be a part of making and enforcing the laws of your town’ should not be violating ordinances and people who are already doing the job — who are already elected and receiving taxpayer funds by way of payroll — should not have to wait for a public outcry in order to enforce the laws that are already on the books. … We should not be having to have this meeting whatsoever.”

Alderman Tommy Probst also noted several signs were posted before the 60-day window prior to election day and that those should have been addressed.

A motion offered by Alderman Triand McCoy seconded by Probst required candidates to strictly adhere to the existing sign ordinance and that every sign that is out of compliance be moved, changed or taken down by Wednesday, March 4.

Craft said both candidates and property owners could be held responsible for unlawful political signs.