By ALICIA LEONARD
After much public discord the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) gave way and removed all community locater signs that had been placed along Scenic Hwy. 30A, but now residents on the outer-edges of the county have started to notice their re-appearance and are questioning where they fit in the grand scheme of tourist development for the county.
The Herald received letters to the editor and phone calls questioning some sign placement and purpose. Regarding the “Gateway Signs,” TDC representative Tracy Louthain, director of public relations and visitor services, stated, “In June 2008, the TDC staff, with the explicit understanding and instructions from the TDC Council and the Board of County Commissioners, approved the installation of the “Gateway” signs at nine locations – all at county lines—to welcome travelers to Walton County.”
Louthain said that all of the signs placement had been pre-approved by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). When asked about one sign’s placement in the woods along Hwy. 181, Louthain said, “The TDC contracted the installation of these signs through NW Florida Industries and would be open to reviewing any sign location in question.”
Many of the signs seem to vary in height as well. Along U.S. 90 East, the signs stands at least 10-12 feet tall, but along U.S. 90 West, one is buried up to the frame.
TDC executive director Sonny Mares told the Herald that FDOT had been out last week compiling a punch list over the signs placement. “They will be sending that list to North West Florida Industries and they will come out and reposition or do whatever the FDOT says needs to be done to satisfy their requirements and provide more uniformity where the signs are concerned.” said Mares
The sign on 181 South according to Mares already has a work order placed with the county to clear land around it. “The FDOT said it had to be placed there and the work order is in place to remove the trees surrounding it so it will be visible from the road,” Mares added.
Mares said last week he received a call from a concerned citizen over one of the signs on Hwy. 20 being defaced. “I got a call back a short time later and they complimented us on how fast our crews got there and cleaned it up. They were very happy with our response and we were very happy they called us and told us what had happened.”
Mares said all citizens should feel free to contact the TDC with any questions about the signs “We will be happy to help them and answer any questions we can about the signs. I think our county commissioners are happy with them and we are proud to welcome visitors to our county with them.”