An electronic message board that would be part of new welcome signs for the Isle of Palms is drawing mixed reaction.
"I think you have a pretty split (City) Council," said Councilman Mike Loftus, who opposes the idea.
Loftus said residents have told him the proposal is out of character for the island.
"Why do we really need it?" he said.
He suggested an IOP SmartPhone app as an alternative.
Councilman Marty Bettelli said digital information within the welcome signs is practical and efficient. The message can be changed quickly by computer. Recreation staff now perform the labor-intensive task of hand-setting letters for the welcome signs, he said.
"We're wasting manpower," Bettelli said.
The new sign would look much like the current one, except for the electronic message board, he said.
Digital messages will not scroll or change every few seconds so they will not be a driver distraction, he said.
The Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee did not recommend funding the project with revenue generated by overnight visitors. However, the Council Public Safety Committee gave the new digital sign a unanimous favorable vote.
Officials said the city will put the project out for bids, and the contract will go before council for final award. The process takes about 60 days.
About $35,000 is budgeted for the new signs, officials said.
The welcome signs at Breach Inlet and the Isle of Palms Connector offer community news, government information and public safety messages.
Some part of the message on the current welcome signs is changed every day or two. The process requires about 8 hours of recreation department staff time monthly, officials said.
IOP bans changeable electronic signs except for official uses.
Neighboring Sullivan's Island has a portable electronic message board that it has used to advise of strong currents or jelly fish, beach rules and government meetings, among other things. The town is weighing an electronic message component in a welcome sign. Sullivan's also has a public safety siren system.
Folly Beach uses changeable signs but they are not electronic. It also delivers information on AM radio.
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