Chillicothe Council approved spending the city’s one-third of the cost of “wayfinding” signs in preparation for the anticipated September World Heritage listing for the Hopewell earthworks.
There was a little pushback against the $200,000 cost, but it passed on first reading with only one “no” vote.
Council began Monday night with an agenda of four items, which was extended to six during the session. All six were passed.
Melody Young, director of the Ross Chillicothe Convention & Visitors Bureau, spoke to council in the public address section.
She spoke with this reporter in a previous interview on April 10th:
With world recognition coming up, the visitors bureau wants new signs all over the county.
Young asked the Ross County Commissioners April 24th to help fund 94 “wayfinding” signs to help travelers know where they are, since many are expected to visit after the UN acknowledges our prehistoric earthworks in September.
Young said the signs are not just for those sites, but the entire Ross County community – to welcome visitors and let them know where they are in Ross County.
With the cost of about $682,000, she’s asking for $200,000 from the county as well as Chillicothe. She says the city is positive about that, and the commissioners said they would give her an answer at the end of the day. (They said “yes.”)
The visitors bureau will pay the other $200,000, and find funding for the remaining costs.
Young says a small committee took 15 months to think this through, and hired a company to design and produce the large number of signs – partly using American Rescue Plan Act funds (the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds). Find the eight-page booklet for the sign program on their website.
The signs identify major tourist attractions and each Ross County town, as well as the Hopewell earthworks parks…and if funded, could be up by the end of July, in time for the World Heritage inscription in September and local celebration in October.
Young pointed out to Chillicothe Council Monday evening that the last thing you would want to happen is for visitors to come in to see the earthworks, but then not know what else is available locally.
She cited her experience at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois, where a neighboring small town has no signage to draw travelers in, but the city of St. Louis, several miles away across the Mississippi River, has signs all over the place for the earthwork.
The City of Chillicothe has historically been reluctant to share funds with the convention & visitors bureau – specifically funds from a state tax on hotel rooms that both the city and county collect – while the Ross County Commissioners have been more agreeable to the CVB.
Council president Joe Gieringer (R) pointed out to council that they need to keep in mind the funding constraints for police and firefighters when considering this funding legislation.
6th Ward councilman Jamie Brown (D) was the lone “no” vote on the motion to vote on the legislation on first reading, and then to vote on its passage. He has championed the homeless issue in Chillicothe.