North Riverside mulls more flashy billboards

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By BOB SKOLNIK

Like the electronic billboard that lights up the intersection at First Avenue and Cermak Road? You may get to enjoy up to two more of them in the future.

At its Jan. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, the North Riverside village board considered erecting two more of the large electronic signs as a way to generate revenue. One suggested location would be near Joe Rizza Ford at 2100 S. Harlem Ave., while the other was the 25th Street entrance to the North Riverside Park Mall at the old water tower site near the Dominick's grocery store.

The signs cost about $350,000 to $400,000 for a 14-by-17 foot sign according to Village Administrator Guy Belmonte. Before erecting the signs, however, the village would seek a partnership to defray that cost.

In addition, the village would have to work out a contract to claim revenue from ad sales for the signs. Such a deal was supposed to result from the erection of the sign at First Avenue and Cermak Road. At the time, North Riverside announced that it would receive 50 percent of the profits from any ad revenue sold for display on the sign.

However, last week, Belmonte said that the village had no received any money from the sign, because the deal with the owners of the sign was a verbal one. Since the time that verbal agreement was made, neither of the parties involved in the deal are working for the company that owns the sign.

"We need to meet with the owner and come up with something," Belmonte said. "The mayor expects to meet with them within six to eight weeks. It's something that fell through the cracks, and unfortunately the people involved in it are gone."

Mayor Richard Scheck said he's received mostly positive feedback about the current sign, claiming he has received 10 favorable comments and has heard only had one negative comment.

However, trustees Joan Sargent and Randy Czajka expressed reservations about adding more electronic signs.

"I know it's a novelty," said Czajka. "I've got mixed emotions about it. It seems to be to commercialize the area too much. I don't want us to be known for these signs."

Trustee Gary Wittbrodt also expressed some skepticism about more signs, but the board decided to explore the costs of adding two more signs before making a final decision.

Bob Uphues contributed to this report.

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