Volunteers clean up common, but illegal, signs in Columbia
COLUMBIA- When most people lose an animal, one of the first steps is to put a "missing" sign on a utility pole, street light or street sign.
One Columbia resident did just that when his cat went missing, but he didn't know that in Columbia it is illegal to post signs in the public right-of-way.
"I figured it may be [illegal], but honestly that wasn't the first thing on my mind when my cat got lost. It was more like how can I get as many people to help me as possible," said Kyle Gronemeier.
The City Code states "no one except a public officer or an employee can put up a sign or notice of any kind on any curbstone, lamppost, street or sidewalk surface, pole, bridge or tree on a public street."
The ordinance includes advertisements, for sale or rent signs for a building or home, garage sales, missing animal and campaign posters.
This ordinance is enforced by Building and Site Development, but the job of removing the signs has been picked up someone else.
A volunteer group in Columbia, Sign Sweepers, got their start about two years ago. Group members go around the city removing unlawful signs.
"When it comes to these signs, the temporary signs, they are a distraction and become a safety issue and we want to reduce that," said Amber Olson, volunteer program specialist for the City of Columbia.
Olson said she wants to make sure everyone is aware of other methods for advertising their event or sale.
Gronemeier said putting these signs up has helped.
"Having more eyes is the most important thing. I've had a couple people text me since I've put them up. I haven't just put up flyers. I have been going on sites and using Facebook trying to be as effective as possible. But it has helped, it has had a few more people kind of give me some whereabouts and just help me be able to at least not do it all by myself," said Gronemeier.
The volunteers are trained to ensure they are removing the correct signs. During the training they get a understanding of the program and the different types of signs they might encounter and how to handle those situations. They do this all on their own free time.
Olson said some volunteers will reach out the people who have posted their signs, to inform them they are being removed and other ways they can go about their situation.
"I think this has been more of an educational piece. I'd like to think I've seen fewer signs due to our volunteer efforts. I'm just hoping this serves as initial conversation piece and how we can all come together to fall within the regulations while also allowing folks to advertise about sales and events in the right way," said Olson.
For more information on the sign standards go to the City of Columbia website.