July 22, 2009 in City

Bus bench contract goes to Florida firm

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The apparent solution to Spokane’s bus bench controversy will be to send the money to Jupiter.

As in Jupiter, Fla.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist announced Wednesday that a citizen’s task force has selected Creative Outdoor Advertising of Jupiter, Fla., as the apparent winner in the bid for the city’s bus bench contract. However, the Spokane City Council must approve the contract, the details of which still need to be negotiated, she said.

“It’s my understanding that they will hire local folks to sell the advertising and maintain the benches,” Feist said.The previous contract had been held by Emerald Outdoor Advertising, which also goes by Sunset Outdoor Advertising. That company has been at odds with city officials for more than a year because it no longer had a contract to place benches in the city’s rights of way. However, city officials recently hashed out an agreement that allows the Spokane Valley-based company to keep some of the seats while the rest went out to bid.

“Emerald supports the buy local campaign,” said sales manager Rhonda-T Warren. “We are very involved in the community and would have liked to have had that contract. We were hoping it would go to someone, at least, locally.”

Feist said the city has no control over what companies bid or from where.

“We can’t give local companies preference,” she said. Creative Outdoor Advertising has “a pretty good track record. They are working for cities all over the country. They have been in business for more than 20 years.”

News of the contract follows a decision earlier this year by Mayor Mary Verner to remove all bus benches with advertising to comply with a previously ignored 2001 sign ordinance.

Since then, the Spokane Transit Authority refused to purchase replacement benches and later the City Council changed the sign law to allow the ads.

The proposed guidelines call for ads that could be up to 8 feet wide in a minimum of 200 locations in the city. That’s even bigger than the ads on Sunset’s existing benches, which are closer to 6 feet wide. The draft would also require new benches to have arms in the middle.

The guidelines, which are based on Los Angeles’ bench rules, also create more stringent maintenance stipulations. New benches would have to display a phone number so riders could report graffiti or broken equipment, and problems would have to be fixed within a day of being reported. The proposed five-year contract also would require the winning bidder to remove snow from the benches.

Feist said the Florida company will be responsible for all maintenance on the benches.


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