Banners need rules, governance

Banners need rules, governance

With regards to last week’s article on the Greenville Christmas banners and organizers, first, I want to thank all who have had a part in this group’s activities be it the Christmas parade, food trucks or Family Fun Day at Deerfield Park. These events have been enjoyed by many.

I wish to offer my opinion regarding what I see as potential issues.

Unfortunately what started out as a “grassroots” group has grown in the number of yearly events and with that comes the need for accountability and transparency. The Town of Smithfield’s official seal is being used on printed material but this is currently not a town-sanctioned committee.

I wonder if this puts the town at any risk concerning liability should someone suffer an injury at one of these events? The majority of the group’s members are town employees.

With this comes other issues, such as are the groups meetings open to the general public, and when and where are they held? It may be a hard sell to imply that there is no expense to the town considering the employees’ involvement.

Phone calls and meetings with outside vendors are probably made during work time. Town staff help in setting up and transporting tables and as mentioned in the article there is some police assistance for traffic control.

Transparency of the group’s finances is also something to be considered. Is a town employee in charge of the funds or is a member who is not employed by the town managing the money?

As far as the banners are concerned, was the opportunity to purchase and advertise on a banner offered to all Smithfield residents and businesses?

I myself don’t recall any newspaper ad advertising the opportunity to purchase a banner. Who is physically installing these banners on the poles and who is responsible for repairing any damage caused by them to the decorative poles?

Is there a signed agreement with the advertisers as to the length of time the banners are to be displayed and is the fee yearly or simply a one-time payment? Do these banners comply with the town’s zoning ordinance? (Under ordinance 8.2 banners are not permitted and under 8.3C15 no signs are to be posted on utility or traffic poles.)

Or do they not have to comply with the town zoning ordinance since Route 44 is a state road?

I personally feel that banners such as these create just more visual pollution and detract from the “historic like” decorative poles they are attached to.

With all this said, in my opinion it would be best to make this a town-sanctioned committee. This way all interested town residents would have a chance to be appointed and serve on the committee, the finances would be transparent, and the Open Meetings law would apply.

John Puleo