Sweet spot: Albemarle sign moves 50 feet

Sometimes it takes a few holes in the wall to get a picture in exactly the right place. That's sort of what happened to Albemarle County when one of its fancy new entrance corridor signs went up– only this is no lightweight wall-hanging. It's a mammoth outdoor sign.

Heather Dow drives down U.S. 29 from Greene County every day, and over the past few months she noticed activity in the median with surveyors, supervisors, and work crews.

When the new "Albemarle" sign went up, Dow thought the location seemed– well– "down in a bit of a gully." The county didn't disagree.

"We felt like its location inhibited the visibility that we were looking for as people were entering Albemarle County," says county spokesperson Lee Catlin.

The same day Dow saw the sign being moved, she read an article about the county's revenue problems, and the sign was "just one of those little things that stuck in my craw," she says. She wondered how much the move was costing the county.

According to Catlin, the sign installer chose the first location. "The county reserved the right to move the sign at the installer's expense," she explains.

After several months, the county exercised that right and had it moved 50 feet closer to the Greene County line "for better visibility." The sign installer, Gropen Exhibit, paid for the move. Owner Neal Gropen declined to comment on the move and how much it cost.

Catlin says the sign, which cost the county $15,000, was part of a capital improvements program funded several years ago and includes another sign along Route 29 just north of the Nelson County line. The bases of the signs are native Alberene soapstone, and the project was supervised by the county's Department of Public Works, which met with Gropen Exhibit and identified several possible sites.

The first location was "a waste of time," says Dow. "I don't understand why they didn't get it right the first time."

Apparently even professionals can end up with a few extra holes in the wall.