ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council will again consider allowing businesses to "sponsor" medians, providing a way for companies to literally take their names to the street while allowing the city to offset maintenance costs.
The idea is to have companies or even neighborhood associations pay $3,500 to have their name on signs planted in high-visibility medians for three years. The money would go toward maintenance costs at those medians. City workers would still be doing the work.
"It's not going to solve all our revenue problems but it will help," said Phil Whitehouse, the city's parks and recreation superintendent.
Whitehouse and his staff will present their plan to City Council on June 5.
Council Chairman Bill Dudley tried to establish a similar program a couple of years ago but was not able to win enough support from other members because of concerns about allowing more signs in the city.
"Times have changed," Dudley said. "We're looking for some help to defray the cost of maintenance. . . . Our parks department is overwhelmed."
The City Beautiful Commission recently wrote a letter in support, Dudley said. And during a meeting last week, council member Karl Nurse said he thought the program would "improve the look of our city."
The city has installed more medians in recent years, Whitehouse said, but the money to maintain them has not always been part of project money.
Dudley said he got the idea from the city of Largo, which has had its median sponsorship program for roughly a dozen years.
Largo's parks superintendent, Greg Brown, said it costs his city about $45,000 a year to maintain and beautify the medians.
The sponsorships now pay for a third of that, he said, even though only 40 percent of the available spots for signs are being used.
Brown said Largo works with the state to put up the 18- by 24-inch signs. Companies big and small pay between $250 to $1,000 a year for them with a three-year minimum commitment.
Many like their signs to go at medians closest to their businesses, Brown said.
"Some spots you get 50,000 cars going by a day," Brown said. "That's pretty good exposure."
As of now, St. Petersburg doesn't plan to have a sliding scale. It also doesn't intend to have signs at every median.
City staff would try to make sure the spots chosen would be worthwhile to sponsors, Whitehouse said.
"They will be visible and be a marketing benefit for businesses," he said.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.