PORT RICHEY — The boating signs along the city's waterways are in such deplorable condition, they are a lawsuit waiting to happen, an expert told officials this week.
The city has permits for 22 waterway markers, including no wake and speed limit signs, mostly along the Pithlachascotee River. But a review by the Port Richey Police Department found some of the signs are so faded they are nearly impossible to read.
Ten signs and two buoys marking swim areas are missing altogether, and 10 more signs are not posted in the right place, the review found.
"If an accident does occur and it is brought back that one of the problems was the signage wasn't correct and the city is holding that permit, someone may judge the city liable for that causality or that impact," said Joe Wagner with Taylor Engineering, the city's dredging consultant. "It's good to be out of that risk."
City Council members agreed the signs need to be replaced. New signs will run about $3,000. The cost to install them, including the additional materials needed to post the signs properly, could be much more.
In several instances, the city is in violation of U.S. Coast Guard code that bans the posting of informational signs on the green square and red triangle navigational markers.
And the existing signs are mounted on a patchwork of different posts, including PVC pipe, I-beams, and 2x4s.
"It is a situation," said Police Chief David Brown, the interim city manager.
Funds for the signs and installation will most likely come from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. Brown said the job would need to be put out for bid, so it is unclear what the total cost may be. Wagner estimated a contractor will charge 10 to 20 percent of the cost of materials for installation.
Council member Terry Rowe, who has been pushing for improvements to the signs, said the police department's report shows "just how bad the signage is." Council member Bill Colombo put it in stark terms as well.
"These signs are a mess," he said.
Council member Steve O'Neill agreed the city needs to replace the signs now.
"Quite frankly, I am surprised some of them are still standing," he said.
In recent weeks, several council members have discussed receiving complaints from the public about speeders and no wake zone violators on the river. Not only are the signs a liability for the city, but their poor condition hampers enforcement, according to Mayor Richard Rober.
"That makes enforcement very, very difficult for our folks," Rober said. "This has been a problem for a long, long time."