Among the items TC President Billy Hawkins and Vice President Jacqueline Paddio asked the council for were two signs near the campus’s main entrances that referred to the men’s basketball team winning the 2008 USCAA Division I championship.
The signs would be fairly small and not terribly expensive. Councilman Eddie Tucker said he had misunderstood the previous discussion, believing the city was going to purchase four large, elaborate welcome signs for the entire city.
City manager Michael Stampfler explained that the college signs would be going up more or less immediately, while the city’s welcome signs will take much longer to design and produce. Additionally, capital improvement funds earmarked for the signs had been cut to accommodate the renovation of the old city jail downstairs at city hall and police offices.
“This comes as a surprise to me,” Councilman Lance Grissett said. “I don’t know if it went over my head, or under the table, or if it went off to the left or to the right. But either way, I missed it. I supported the police department project, but we borrowed $3.6 million for capital improvements, and that’s different from the tax money in our general fund. I recall at our last meeting I specifically asked, or Mr. Tucker asked, for some options, because I remember saying I like to have options.”
Stampfler said he was still trying to “finesse the CIP funding.”
“I understand that it is still a goal and a priority to find the money” Stampfler said. “We have a $60,000 estimate, which is something to look at. We still have 11 months left in the current fiscal year.”
Council President Horace Patterson said, “I want to send a strong message for an attractive sign. On Sept. 3, we updated our goals for the year, and they were unanimously adopted. I had no knowledge or expectation of change. We approved the city hall and police projects, too.”
Stampfler referred to a memo by finance director Teri St. James that was provided to the council at the time, and explained that signage remained on the list of priorities in the new year.
Councilman Donnie Miller then said, “I’m all for a nice sign, but drive around this town. We need quality of life for all of the city. A sign is good, it shows people who we are. But the business and the people here want to see the center of the city outward developing. Our recreation department has no practice facilities. We want our children to like growing up here, and stay and raise their kids here. We have to start over, we have to keep the people we have, and you do that with quality of life things like recreation, schools, water, and roads. We have major problems all over.”
“Quality of life and welcome signs are not mutually exclusive of each other, and vice-versa,” Grissett said. “Recreation is included in that.”
Meantime, Stampfler was authorized to meet with Hawkins or a designated college representative to discuss the college signs.
“We said in the beginning, there is no doubt about this council’s position on signs,” Patterson said. “We need to put something before people’s eyes that are making valuable decisions. And our existing signs are not good.”
Patterson then attempted to let the matter drop by asking Stampfler to look at the budget again and bring the council some possible dollar figures and possible designs.
“We have the $60,000 in the $3.6 million we borrowed,” Grissett said. “But that’s just a figure in the budget, it has never been discussed publicly or privately with me or anyone else to the best of my knowledge. Mr. Tucker asked for options last time, and a price. This is just a nebulous thing I can’t see.”
Councilman Jim Davis said, “I have been hesitant on this since day one. I’m looking at our publicity, I was driving on I-20 and decided to do a little secret shopper act the welcome center. The only material on Talladega was in a book about the entire state. When I asked the lady that worked there what she knew about Talladega, she told me she thought there was a small museum there, and a library. (Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director) Mack Ferguson is working on fixing that. But until we can get people coming here, signage is a small thing.”
“I disagree,” Grissett said.
Tucker also disagreed. “You need signs,” he said. “We talked about this for two years, and then for four years before that.”
”Signs are not a quality of life issue,” Miller said. “We need to concentrate on parks, roads, sidewalks, water. Well, maybe not water. But we want it to be a place where people want to stay. You want them to come here, and you want them to stay here.”
“A welcome sign puts your best foot forward,” Grissett said. “It is a point of pride. You don’t welcome someone to a place you’re not proud of. Dr. Davis, when we started out, you wanted to get bike trails. That didn’t work out, but we can still work together to do both.”
Grissett then went on to point out that the Talladega Municipal Airport Board was working with the state Department of Transportation to have signs for the airport placed on the Alabama 77 and Eastaboga Road exits, and that the board was also designing a new entrance sign.
“It’s not a busy sign, it’s fitting. But I say that to say this. They had the wherewithal, the ability, the mindset and the knowledge, our child, this board went to the ALDOT, and has gotten a tentative commitment. They may not get all four of the signs they wanted, two at 77 and two at Eastaboga Road, but right now their chances look good.”
Grissett said the city’s signs should read “Welcome to Talladega, City of Pride, Home of Talladega College, the Alabama Institutes for Deaf and Blind, etc. And I want to see some sketches and a dollar figure.”
Patterson said the council would wait for the manager’s report, adding, “I have no problem with a spirited debate. We should do the people’s business in public.”