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Blank city billboard gets complaints
Cops respond, improvements on the way
The billboard above the St. Paul Police Department’s Eastern District headquarters at the intersection of Payne and Minnehaha Avenues has been a bit of an eyesore for quite some time.
For the past couple of months, it’s been a blank, scrappy off-white rectangle greeting people as they drive up Payne Avenue, and the neighbors have taken notice.
“It’s a blight; it’s neglected property,” said Payne-Phalen resident Sarah Geving. “I think it’s sending a strong message to the neighborhood that the city doesn’t care.”
The billboard until recently held a fading public service announcement about domestic violence, according to Eastern District FORCE Cmdr. John Lozoya. The announcement was removed because it was faded beyond the point of being legible, Lozoya explained.
“It was pretty outdated,” said Amy Brendmoen, city council member for Ward 5 where the Eastern District police station is located.
Brendmoen said she’d been hearing complaints about the billboard for well over a year.
Neighbors’ complaints about the sign, combined with a little prodding from local politicians, ended up yielding a response -- the St. Paul Police Department is now looking into two options to keep the sign from being an eyesore.
Either they’ll remove it, or they’ll partner with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to put up information about road work that will affect the nearby area. A series of projects on Interstate 35E will mean major construction near the East Side.
But both options have their challenges.
“Removing the sign will be very expensive and isn’t budgeted,” said Eastern District Senior Cmdr. Joe Neuberger in a statement. “We are working with police administration and city council members to find funding.”
Removal of the billboard would mean the department would have to find a new place to put up radio transmitters that are currently mounted to the sing.
Neuberger said that while MnDOT had expressed interest in posting public safety announcements and would assume all the costs for posting them, nothing was set in stone.
Geving said she thought the MnDOT option would be “better than what it is there right now,” but added that with a public service message “you’re kind of putting something up there for the sake of putting something up there.”
Instead of the MnDOT announcement, Geving said she’d like to see the billboard serve as a welcome sign for Payne Avenue, showcasing businesses down the way or branding the neighborhood.
If the department were to work with MnDOT, Neuberger said the soonest a new sign would go up would be late March or early April.
Brendmoen questioned the approach of working with MnDOT, saying she’s “not sure if that’s a sustainable approach,” and that she’d been hearing about that partnership with MnDOT “for a while.”
“In my opinion, a battered up billboard is much worse than no billboard,” she said.
Nonetheless, that the police department has put forth a plan is good to see, she said, adding that she hopes something comes of it.
“We want to keep it moving,” she said.
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.