The Early City Council agreed to move forward Tuesday with a proposal to add several billboards, including one digital board, inside the city limits to replace ones lost in past years.   

A representative from Lamar Advertising was on hand to present the company’s proposal and answer questions. The proposed digital board would be erected on city property at the intersection of Early Blvd. and Garmon Dr., or Highway 183, and face southwest.   

All proposed billboards will require a variance request at Early’s next council meeting due to a 2008 ordinance banning further billboard construction in the city. All residents and business owners within a 200-foot radius of proposed billboard sites will receive notice about the variance requests.   

Assistant city administrator Larry McConn said the first new signs would be located at Taquito Millonario, Laserwash of Early and Big G Grocery.   

The plan would also relocate one dilapidated sign across Early Blvd. to the Tootie Kelly Real Estate office and construct three additional boards on city property, including the digital board, for a total of seven signs.   

Tommy Roberts of Abilene represented Lamar at the meeting. He said the city property Lamar is looking at “probably doesn’t have the opportunity for much development.”   

“We approached [the city] with the opportunity and said, hey, partner with Lamar, we’ll do a revenue share on those locations. We’ll do the capital expenditure on building those structures, and moving forward we’ll share the revenue,” Roberts said.   

Roberts said the billboards can provide businesses a “more effective way to target local customers” than regional television and radio ads. He said typical Lamar leases are between 20 and 30 years.  

“I’ve seen municipalities that are overbuilt with billboards,” Roberts said. “I don’t think Early is one of those locations … I feel like it’s healthy when it’s done correctly.”   

Roberts also addressed concerns about the digital board, which he said would involve about eight rotating advertisements including one managed by the city itself. He said Lamar’s technology allows digital boards to dim sufficiently at night, and that the city can dictate excluded types of advertising — like liquor or tobacco ads — in its lease.   

“With the dimming technology we have on our signs,” Roberts said, “the ambient light is not obtrusive.”   

The council’s vote to formalize the construction and grant the variance requests will take place next month. The city council also voted to:   

•    Re-elect Benny Allcorn as mayor pro-tem.  

•    Re-appoint Lee Haney as municipal judge for a two-year term ending May 2018.   

•    Re-appoint Sandra Garcia as deputy municipal court clerk for a two-year term ending May 2018.   

•    Pass Ordinance 2017-08, which updates the city’s Code of Ordinances regarding mobile home parks. “It’s not changing much from what we already have established,” said city employee Nathan Land. “It’s clarifying a few things.” Land said there has been recent interest in new mobile home parks that led to examination and clarification of the ordinances. The changes will establish a uniform fee for operator permit applications and move minimum home spacing to 15 feet.   

•    Grant city administrator Tony Aaron autonomy to negotiate change orders for the wastewater treatment plant up to $250,000. The request comes one week after the council met to approve a change order for just under $300,000 for the plant. Aaron said the project is still about $1.5 million under budget at this point.   

•    Meet on June 20 at noon for a lunchtime budget workshop. “I’ve got a pretty good projection of our revenue for this next year, and I’ve got my requests from my department heads,” Aaron said. “I’d just like to share what the requests have been and what our revenue projection is, and just get some direction …. The good news still is, our revenue looks good. I don’t anticipate any tax increase and I don’t anticipate any kind of fee increases.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Early Chamber of Commerce director Shelly Taff invited the Early council and the general public to the chamber’s Business After Hours networking event at Riverside Apartments on Thursday, June 15 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.    

Aaron also updated the council on some ongoing projects around the city. A company called Unite Private Networks is installing fiber optic cables on Early Blvd., Aaron said, and will eventually offer communications services to local businesses. The city is also working on sidewalk projects, beginning construction on the wastewater treatment facility and finalizing blueprints for the Early Visitors and Events Center. “We anticipate having a complete set of plans for that by the end of June,” Aaron said.