Campaign signs growing like spring flowers

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By James Roberts

It's a sure sign that spring is here. With the May Primary approaching, campaign signs are sprouting as fast as spring flowers, and officials are laying down the dos and don'ts.

State, city and county officials say that signs cannot block drivers' line of sight or hinder maintenance crews. Signs also can't be placed on public property, such as Miller Park.

And with the large number of candidates seeking office this year, officials expect to see more signs than usual.

"Because of the full slate of candidates, it can get pretty gaudy looking," said Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers.

So far this campaign season, state workers have removed six signs in Taylor County. City and County workers haven't yet removed any.

"We haven't had any calls as far as anybody complaining," Rogers said.

Most of the campaign signs, he said, are erected along state roads or private property.

Kentucky law and Transportation Cabinet policy prohibit placing political or other advertising signs on state rights of way, including signs attached to utility poles within the state right of way.

Illegal signs will be moved to the state highway garage in each county and kept for two weeks. Owners may claim them by showing identification and completing a claim form. Unclaimed signs will be discarded.

The local state garage is on Bear Track Road.

Campbellsville Mayor Brenda Allen said the city has removed signs during past elections.

"We have removed some in the past when they were causing problems with people seeing."

When the City removes signs, they will be stored at the maintenance garage on South Central Avenue, Allen said.

Rogers said he doesn't believe county workers have ever removed signs.

If the county receives a complaint, Rogers said, the candidate featured on the sign will be notified so that he or she has a chance to remove the sign. If they don't move it, county workers will. The signs will be stored at the county barn on Pleasant Drive.

Josh Hornbeck, engineer branch manager at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Elizabethtown office, said intersections are the most common problem area. While state crews have removed signs in Taylor County, he said, there have been no complaints about signs from the public.

According to a press release, acting State Highway Engineer Steve Waddle said state highway workers are required to remove and discard hundreds of signs during each election cycle. The signs can pose hazards for drivers and maintenance crews.

"Signs on the right of way often restrict sight distance near intersections and create a hazard in the 'clear zone,' which is the recovery area for motorists who run off the road," Waddle said. "They also interfere with maintenance activities such as roadside mowing, which will be starting soon."

The right of way varies by each road, Hornbeck said.

"The right of way varies, and a good rule of thumb is the utility poles and fences should be close to the right of way line."

As far as placing signs elsewhere, both Rogers and Allen suggest asking property owners first.

"Personally, I don't put them anywhere I don't ask," Allen said.

Rogers said some counties have passed laws banning campaign signs and that there has been talk of a statewide ban. It boils down simply to safety, he said.

"The signs can interfere with drivers," he said. "They can impair sight distance."

Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.