Signs intended to be placed further from the downtown to guide
music in the park san jose

Gilroy’s City Council reached a compromise on whether to
purchase additional city


signs Monday, voting 4-3 to approve $135,000 worth of
directional signs as part of a package of about $250,000 in
expenses for the rest of the fiscal year.
Gilroy’s City Council reached a compromise on whether to purchase additional city “wayfinding” signs Monday, voting 4-3 to approve $135,000 worth of directional signs as part of a package of about $250,000 in expenses for the rest of the fiscal year.

Gilroy’s economic development groups initially had requested that the city spend $235,000 on such directional signs, but the council opted for a lower amount because of the challenging economic times. Still, most council members said at least some markers could be helpful.

“I don’t think you can cut it entirely to the bone on the wayfaring signs,” Councilman Bob Dillon said. “I mean we have spent a lot of our money from the general fund on police and firefighters, about 75 percent. My feeling on it is the other 51,000 people who live here might like to have nice things, too.”

Dillon initially proposed that the council only spend $100,000 on wayfinding signs, after Gilroy Economic Development Corporation CEO Richard Spitler said the sign program could be split into two parts – one consisting of five city identity markers totaling $100,000 and the other consisting of 22 primary direction signs totaling $135,000.

However, Mayor Al Pinheiro said he would prefer to spend $135,000 on the primary direction guideposts, as 22 signs is far more than five.

“If I were to split the baby, I would like to go with more signs,” he said.

Ultimately, most council members agreed, although Craig Gartman, Dion Bracco and Peter Arellano dissented.

“I think one of the things that is missing from this presentation is what is the return on the investment,” Gartman said regarding Spitler’s explanation of projects recommended by the EDC, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau.

He said he likely would not think twice about paying for those signs three or four years ago when the economy was rosy. However, these days the city must “watch every penny that’s out there,” he said.

The state already appears poised to start taking more money from its cities, and the City of Gilroy needs to be cautious, Gartman said.

Councilman Peter Arellano said he felt the city needs to be careful with its priorities after laying off a large portion of its labor force during the past couple of years.

In addition, he said it appeared that Gilroy’s business community was not looking for a real partnership with the city as they were not willing to put any money toward the expenses they wanted the city to cover.

“They’re coming to the taxpayers’ trough to ask for more money,” Arellano said. “To me, if it’s a partnership, everyone pitches in.”

Later in the meeting, Arellano said he would only support paying for signs if they could be seen from the freeway like auto mall signs, but Pinheiro explained that the guideposts were not built to be seen from the freeway. Those types of larger signs would require permission from the California Department of Transportation, he said.

Council members Cat Tucker and Perry Woodward were fully in favor of the signs. They said they would even support spending $235,000 on the sign program, as they felt it was important to prepare for the future of economic development. Tucker also advocated for giving full funding for both the EDC and the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau after cutting back some of its financial support for those programs.

Gilroy’s City Council previously gave the Visitors Bureau $73,000 in February 2008 to hire Articulate Solutions to spend five months polling the community and to create a new city logo and Gilroy’s official slogan: “Gilroy, a community with a spice for life.”

That plan calls for 105 signs that will point to auto dealers, golf courses, wineries and local parks as well as other historic structures and local amenities. The Gilroy Downtown Business Association agreed Dec. 1 to pay $23,900 for three of those signs, the first of which was installed at Fifth and Monterey streets last week. The total project is slated to cost about $465,000, Spitler said Monday.

The EDC, the Visitor’s Bureau and the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce this month sent a letter to the city that recommended $300,000 worth of projects. Council members generally did not dispute the groups’ other recommendations: $45,000 for a city marketing plan and $20,000 to apply for local enterprise zone status, which would provide tax incentives and other economic benefits for local businesses. Those recommendations came from a list of eight economic development projects that the chamber, Visitor’s Bureau and EDC would like to see implemented, totaling more than $1.165 million.

“It’s important that we determine our economic advantage,” Spitler told the council Monday before their vote.

Last week, the council had received a letter from Gary Muraoaka, president of the Gilroy chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that questioned the city’s consideration of wayfinding signs when AFSCME alone had agreed to $1 million in annual concessions to help keep the city afloat. However, no union representatives spoke on the matter Monday.

Council members had no problems with $55,997 worth of city-recommended expenditures, including a new $10,000 system that will allow the city to record meetings in the council chambers on DVD format, $24,997 for the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan and $4,000 for an employee recognition program.

The council on Monday also approved a general fund reserve policy of 25 percent of its expenditures. It also implemented an “economic stability reserve” that would be 15 percent of general fund expenditures – starting at about $5.1 million. The economic stability reserve only would be available during a severe economic downturn to ensure the city can maintain operations.

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