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Published: Wednesday, 10/20/2004

Council gives inspectors ticket powers for sign sins

Illegal signs posted in Toledo's rights-of-way and in front of carryouts soon may begin feeling some enforcement heat.

City Council voted last night to give police powers to the city's sign inspector to issue citations for illegal signs.

The added enforcement authority follows an increase in sign permit fees and contractor fees approved two weeks ago.

Clinton Wallace, the city's chief building official, said the current process for citing violators is ineffective and overloads Toledo Municipal Court.

Under the new procedure, the inspector can take a picture of an alleged illegal sign and send it along with a $75 administrative ticket to the offender.

The expansion is similar to the additional powers granted to the city's housing code and nuisance inspectors in March to issue citations with $75 fines. Before that, inspectors issued warnings and then followed up with affidavits filed in Municipal Court.

Mr. Wallace said the biggest offenders of the sign regulations are businesses that post signs on utility poles offering employment and carryout stores that put up illegal signs advertising specials on beer and cigarettes. "They need a permit, and nine times out of 10, they've exceeded the sign space allowed," he said.

He said he doesn't believe campaign signs are a problem, or that yard-sale signs would be targeted. "We're not going after Joe Neighbor who puts up a sign every now and then," Mr. Wallace said.

Council President Louis Escobar said cleaning up illegal signs will beautify the city.

The measure passed 9-1, with Councilman Betty Shultz voting no, and Councilmen Peter Gerken and Ellen Grachek absent.

The vote follows action two weeks ago in which sign permit fees were increased from a range of $15 to $75, depending on the size of the sign, to a range of $25 to $250. The fee to renew a sign contractor license was raised from $65 to $140.

Also last night, council voted to:

●Boost the fee for courtesy bus benches from $5 to $20 a year.

●Establish a Commission on Disabilities.

●Authorize Mayor Jack Ford to take informal bids for a $500,000 excavation project in the Marina District. The excavation will be done before the ground freezes so construction on a marina can be done in the spring. The goal is to have the work covered under a $3 million state environmental cleanup grant that expires in September.



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