The Thayer County Visitor’s Committee just found out that they are paying rent to have a sign advertising the City of Hebron and its giant porch swing setting across the highway at the edge of town. “We didn’t know that,” said committee representative Shari Apking last week at the county commissioner’s meeting. “We did not realize it was our responsibility to pay rent for the space where the sign is located.”
The sign, part of a package deal that the visitor’s committee erected a couple of years ago, maintains the pioneer wagon theme and matches a second sign advertising the city of Deshler setting at the intersection of Highways 81 and 136. But the sister sign sets on donated land, Apking said, which means no rent is required there. Hebron’s sign, erected in 2004, sets on personal property along Highway 81 at the main entrance to the city on Lincoln Avenue and requires rent for the space it occupies.
“We think either the city of Hebron or the county should be paying the rent,” Apking told the commissioners Wednesday morning. “We already have so little money, and we feel we can put what funds we do have toward something other than paying rent.”
Commissioner Dave Bruning said the committee should seek help from Hebron since the sign has the city’s name on it, but Apking said the sign was installed without the city’s permission. It was a promotional project taken on by the Visitor’s committee and did not include any discussion with the city.
According to the lease agreement, a contract that is good for 29 years, rent is $20 per month, or $240 each year. Payment has, since 2004, been taken out of the Visitor’s Committee fund automatically each year, said Thayer County Clerk Marie Rauner, and added that the property owner sends the bill to the clerk’s office each year. “This year I forwarded the bill to the committee, which is how they became aware they were paying it.”
Commissioner Bruning cited the lease stating the Visitor’s group owned the sign, then added that if the commissioners decided to end the lease, the sign would have to come down. “Or you’ll need to renegotiate with the City of Hebron,” he said.
The commissioners agreed to take care of the $240 bill for 2011, but want to iron the situation out before the 2012 bill rolls around. And depending on whether the City agrees to take over the lease or not, will determine whether the sign comes down, or continues to announce the City’s amenities.