Local City's Sell Their Souls For a Few Dollars; And Get Obnoxious Sign Pollution In Return

Bus benches draw Holly Hill’s ire

BusBenchHolly

A bicyclist rides around a Waverly Media bus bench in the middle of the sidewalk at the intersection
of Flomich Street and U.S. 1 in Holly Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.

By Chris Graham
chris.graham@news-jrnl.com
Via: Newton White
HOLLY HILL — Alexander Marcov likes riding his bicycle on the sidewalks around town, but lately something has been blocking his path.
More than a dozen bus benches belonging to Waverly Media have been bolted down in the middle of sidewalks along U.S. Highway 1, leaving residents concerned an unsuspecting cyclist could be injured or even worse.
While the city is blaming the embattled advertising company, a top executive for Waverly said it was just fulfilling the city’s wishes. Pedestrians are stuck in the middle, at least for now.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Marcov said.
Since 2008, Holly Hill has contracted for bus benches with Waverly Media, whose owners are facing a state investigation over allegations stemming from political contributions and mortgage fraud charges on the federal level. Now it’s facing a new controversy.
Kimberly Was, general manager for Waverly, said the city requested that its concrete benches be upgraded to be more aesthetically pleasing and fit in with beautification plans for the city’s Community Redevelopment Area.
At the same time, the new benches had to comply as much as possible with American with Disabilities Act standards, Was said, meaning the new, lightweight benches had to be bolted down to the ground and there was no other place to put them.
“We’re not here to make things difficult,” she said, adding she believes the benches adhere to the city’s administrative code.
City Manager Jim McCroskey contends the benches don’t comply after meeting with officials from the Florida Department of Transportation.
“As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t what we told them what we would support,” McCroskey said.
McCroskey said the city requested the bench sidewalk pads mirror what’s in place at the city’s existing bus shelters but that engineers with FDOT would ultimately have to issue a permit for the work. The city manager admitted when the benches were initially installed he thought they looked “strange.”
It turns out bus benches are exempt from needing approval by the state agency, he said. Still, he said he would be contacting Waverly Media about the issue.
The placement of the benches prompted a discussion at the last City Commission meeting over whether Waverly may be in violation of its contract. Two provisions in the document allow the city to remove or relocate the benches it deems “not to be located to the public benefit.”
City Commissioner John Penny would like to have them gone altogether, suggesting the benches amount to “sign pollution.”
Port Orange has the same benches, he added, but they don’t obstruct the sidewalk in that city.
“This thing looks bad, it smells bad, it’s just terrible,” Penny said. “They would have never tried to do this in Port Orange. And that’s what irritates me.”
Was said the company is willing to work with the city if it has an issue with the current design.
“We’re trying to make the city look better and improve what they already have,” she said.
But resident Scott Baker, who spoke out on the matter at the Oct. 8 commission meeting, said Waverly has only made it worse.
“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” Baker said. “This could only happen in Holly Hill.”
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