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SIHO seeks to install interactive corner sign


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A Columbus insurance company wants an interactive digital sign at a downtown intersection, but city officials worry that constantly changing messages could distract motorists and pedestrians.

SIHO would like an interactive sign on the southeast corner of Washington and Fifth streets, in front of a First Financial Bank ATM machine.

The sign would allow users to touch it and access information about the community.

The sign also could display a rotation of different messages, such as the time, temperature and community events.

The insurance company would operate the 6.4-foot by 3.2-foot sign 24 hours a day, said SIHO President Dave Barker. The sign would not be used for company advertising, he said.

SIHO originally asked for a changing sign that would only display messages. After the plan commission voiced safety concerns, Barker said he was also exploring the idea of an interactive sign.

Some commission members thought an interactive sign would be more pedestrian friendly but did not know enough about how one would work and if the type of sign would meet city ordinances.

SIHO Insurance was asked to return to the Columbus Plan Commission meeting Aug. 13 with details about the type of sign and how it would be used. City officials also want to know who will install it and who will be in charge of the messages on the sign.

SIHO’s proposed sign would be in an existing sign cabinet, which doesn’t meet current city ordinances but is grandfathered in under older city ordinances, Columbus-Bartholomew County planning director Jeff Bergman said.

A city ordinance limits electronic signs to changing no faster than every 6 seconds to minimize the distraction, Bergman said. Barker did not say how often the sign’s face would change.

Commission member Dave Fisher said he was worried about the content of the sign and how it would be regulated.

“Who would you allow, and what could they say?” Fisher asked.

Barker said any editorial decisions on the content on the sign would ultimately come down to the office receptionist and himself.

Taylor Rowles, provider relations specialist with SIHO, said the company has received 27 letters from groups in Columbus who support the installation of the sign and were interested in using it.

Karen Shrode, executive director of the Columbus Area Arts Council, said the arts council would use the sign if it were available to advertise arts events in the community.

Barker said he had spoken with the Columbus Area Visitors Center about introducing an interactive sign instead of only a sign with changing messages.

The sign “would allow for people to walk up to a place and find out about information in our community,” he said. Barker added that the interactive sign could have information about where to find certain attractions and how to take the architectural tour, among other things.

Bergman said he isn’t sure what the ordinance is for an interactive sign in downtown Columbus and if an interactive sign would even be considered a sign. If it isn’t a sign, SIHO might not have to get the plan commission’s approval.

After hearing the input from the plan commission, Rowles said SIHO is pursuing the interactive kiosk and that company officials plan to meet with Bergman to determine if and how an interactive sign could be used.

SIHO still has the option of installing a sign in which half of it changes digitally, and the other half doesn’t, something that meets city ordinance requirements and would not require plan commission approval, Rowles said.

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