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PTA wants electronic sign for North Salem Elementary School

SALEM — A proposal by the North Salem Elementary School PTA to donate an electronic message sign to the school has raised some concerns about zoning issues and the use of the sign in a rural part of town.

The PTA has been raising funds for a new outdoor sign for the school for the past two years, and earlier this week the group sought guidance from the School Board about whether it should purchase a manually changed message sign or continue fundraising in an effort to purchase an electronic sign.

Robyn Glickel, president of the PTA, said North Salem is the only school in town that does not have a message sign. Although most schools have a manually changeable letter sign, Salem High School recently installed an electronic sign outside the school.

“Today, we can purchase a sign with changeable letters, but we are looking to go forward another year with some additional fundraising (for an electronic sign),” said Glickel. “We are mindful that this is in a residential community, and our goal is not to put up something that is bright and intrusive to the community.”

An electronic sign would cost a little over $17,000, while a manual sign would cost about $7,000, PTA member Kathleen Martinello said. Staff would be able to change an electronic message sign more frequently than a manual sign, and the sign could be used to advertise community as well as school events.

School Board member Peter Morgan said he had concerns about the number of messages flashing on the sign and its brightness in a residential area. Member Michael Carney said that if he was to support an electronic sign at the school, there would have to be restrictions on hours when the sign is on.

Martinello said there would not be an overload of changing messages on the sign and that a timer could be installed to make sure the sign is shut off at a certain time.

“I do have some concerns about the issue of electronic signs and the rural area of North Salem and how well that is going to fit in, but it sounds like you have discussed it,” said Morgan.

Bernard Campbell, the board’s chairman, said he is less inclined to support installing an electronic sign at the school.

He said electronic signs are not allowed by zoning in rural, residential areas. Although governmental agencies are exempt from the zoning bylaw, Campbell said he would rather not skirt the bylaws unless it was a necessity.

The School Board agreed to wait for more information on the long-term maintenance and energy costs of the sign as well as additional information on the color and brightness of the proposed electronic messages before taking a final vote on allowing the sign at the school.

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