OPA Officials Discuss Electronic Signs

OPA Officials Discuss Electronic Signs
An existing community sign in Ocean Pines is pictured. Photo by Bethany Hooper

OCEAN PINES – With the county’s approval to install electronic signs, association leaders last week discussed the next steps in replacing the community’s information boards.

Last year, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a text amendment allowing on-premises signs within a residential community. The change, presented by the Ocean Pines Association (OPA), will allow the association to replace its existing signage with up to eight electronic signs.

“We need to be reminded that the association and the Communications Advisory Committee put a lot of work in collaborating with Worcester County to pass a text amendment that even allows this within the boundaries of Ocean Pines,” said President Colette Horn. “The objective was to replace as many as eight of the older signs, but to start with two.”

In a board meeting last week, General Manager John Viola presented the OPA Board of Directors with cost estimates for the two electronic signs.

“If you are looking at two electronic signs, you are probably looking at, all in, $80,000 to $100,000, depending on what contractor we go with,” he said. “If we are going to go forward with this, they feel we should go with the bigger sign … The price would be higher, but within that range.”

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Officials noted potential locations for the new electronic signs included the north and south gate entrances. However, Viola explained that the association’s current signage would have to be removed.

“It was my understanding if we do these electronic signs, part of the agreement with the county was that we would take down all those other signs that are there,” he said.

Josh Davis, the association’s director of marketing and public relations, agreed.

“I talked to the county Friday and the understanding was if we put any new electronic signs in, all of the old ones would have to be removed during the permitting phase,” he added.

During the board’s discussions last week, Horn noted the use of electronic signs would not only save time, but would improve public safety, as it could be used in emergency situations.

“The goal is to make it easier to maintain current information on the signs through the use of the electronic information transmission,” she said.

Director Larry Perrone said he did not think two electronic signs would be enough, considering the remaining signs would have to be removed.

“For us to consider doing two, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said. “After hearing that, my thought is we would need at least five, maybe six.”

He suggested electronic signs not only at the community’s entrances, but at The Point, the Yacht Club, the golf club and the administration building.

“If we are going to rip the rest down, I don’t think two is adequate,” he said. “That changes the math on this thing tremendously.”

Viola agreed.

“You’re right, two doesn’t cut it,” he said. “And the number will be well over $200,000.”

Director Frank Daly questioned if that money would be better spent on an emergency notification system.

“Even if you go with the six signs suggested, from 8 o’clock at night to 6 o’clock in the morning, how much emergency notification are you going to get …,” he said. “If we’re talking about spending $200,000 and we’re saying it’s for emergency notification, would we be better to spend $300,000 and put in something that would explode ever cellphone in Ocean Pines at 3 o’clock in the morning, with a specific message?”

Director Doug Parks said he also had concerns about removing and replacing the existing signage.

“It harkens the question of how people consume information,” he added. “We’re making somewhat of an assumption that their primary source of information is those signs, and I would argue maybe that’s not a valid assumption to base a costly decision on.”

Communications Advisory Committee Chair Cheryl Jacobs said the committee would take the board’s comments into consideration. Perrone added the committee could come back to the board with a recommendation.

“If we want to move forward, we can vote on it at that point,” he said. “But I think we have to understand this is going to be a very expensive proposition.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.