By Trevor Busch
While administration had recommended moving forward with new entryway signage for the community, town council has put the brakes on any development until project support from the private sector can be confirmed.
Heading a delegation from Taber Communities in Bloom on Oct. 22, Jean Holman had requested town council reconsider a town welcome sign project north of Highway 36 adjacent to the Taber Golf Course that was shelved by council in September 2017 for projected cost overruns.
In late 2016, previous town council had voted 4-3 to budget $30,000 toward the project for 2017, but a proposed design came in well over budget at an estimated cost of roughly $65,000.
“This originally was not intended to be a Town of Taber project,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas at the Nov. 13 regular meeting. “This was a group of individuals who got together with the golf course, and were concerned with the appearance coming in on Highway 36 and Highway 3, all the compost and materials that are found there. Because the golf course doesn’t have any money, all they were going to do is provide some of the members to work on labour and erecting slats and what not. The money that was designated was for the stucco, not for anything else. This is a sign that wasn’t meant to be a Town of Taber sign… it’s not part of the plan in Taber at all. It’s a sign that was actually meant to be a fence to block and cover up the grass clippings and what not.”
In the original design, the welcome sign and fence would be approximately 47 meters in length, with an arch in the centre section reaching a height of 10 to 12 feet, with a standard six foot height throughout the rest of the feature.
“There are some individuals that were going to work with us on this… there was a number of businesses that were approached to donate materials for this here, and those donations are still out there,” continued Strojwas. “I still feel that this could be a community project rather than a town project. I would recommend tabling this for the next month, and once these individuals can get together with Communities in Bloom, and proceed that way and not consider this a part of the branding of Taber.”
In August 2017, the graphic designer involved had “expressed concern that the sign that was proposed as a result of the RFP did not meet with the intent of the design the town had been working toward, and was concerned that it should implement some of the elements of design that would create a more appealing and eye-catching Taber brand.”
“I think anytime you’re putting up a sign with the Town of Taber on it, it’s an opportunity for branding,” said Coun. Carly Firth. “To have consistent branding at all entrances to the town — when people are driving in on the highway it’s important to have consistent signage so it looks unified. Even though it may increase the cost, perhaps it can be a joint town-private venture.”
According to administration, in July 2018 the contractor involved had requested clarification on the status of the sign project, but after contacting the Taber Golf Club to discuss the possibility of shared costs it was determined the organization would be unable to afford to assist with any contribution toward the sign.
“We did agree to install some privacy slats in their chain-link fence to hide some of the work area,” said planning director Phyllis Monks. “At that time, we advised Venture Holdings that the tender had not been awarded.”
Taber’s Municipal Development Plan, adopted in 2016, calls on the town to “adopt urban design guidelines” as well as “implement appropriate signage along Highway 3 to establish a branding and theme for the town and to encourage travelers to stop in Taber.”
Similarly, the town’s Strategic Plan adopted this year identifies defining Taber’s physical “sense of place” as a strategic initiative and encourages administration to “host (a) public engagement session to determine entrance/gateway identification options.”
“The Town of Taber logos were put on there just because it was the Town of Taber,” said Strojwas. “They can be changed once more branding design has been chosen to update it. Rather than ‘Welcome to the Town of Taber’ that sign could say ‘Welcome to the Taber Golf Course.’ The idea was the Communities in Bloom ladies would like to put up some of their trophies on that sign so that people could see that. So it’s really not a branding issue.”
Coun. Jack Brewin disagreed.
“I think it is branding with the Town of Taber’s name on something. I understand what you’re saying, that it doesn’t have to be that sign. I’d vote today to put up that sign just like it is, it covers everything. The entryway — because it’s such a different entrance, the other highways are straight on to it — people need to wake up and realize they’re coming to the end of an intersection. I’d like to see that sign go in as soon as possible personally.”
According to administration, in 2017 it had been proposed that the costs involved would be shared between the town and the golf course, but Strojwas disputed this indicating project contributions from the golf course were intended to be labour and not monetary.
Brewin would suggest the town take over the project completely.
“Maybe we should consider not the golf course at all. Maybe the town should take it over as their own project. If we want to promote this town, anytime we can put up a sign that says ‘Welcome to Taber’ I think it’s important.”
The proposed 2020 budget includes funding for the Gateway Improvement Project to identify a plan and fund signage in 2021. This is intended to include a plan for both Highway 3 and Highway 36 entry feature replacements, as well as the 50th Street Gateway signage.
Administration’s recommended motion — which was ultimately declined — requested town council direct staff to proceed with the Gateway feature and town branding efforts as identified in the Municipal Development Plan and Strategic Plan, to be included as part of the proposed 2020-2021 budget.
Administration noted that updated pricing would be required from the contractor to determine full costs for the project, with new pricing intended to include any electrical, engineering and permitting costs.
“I’m concerned if we start getting architects, and consultants, and everything involved, this is going to become a $200,000 project for a $30,000 – $40,000 sign,” said Strojwas.
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to table consideration of the project for one month to allow for consultation with Taber Communities in Bloom and other interested parties before moving forward.