Jackson is not fine with plan for signs

Staff Writer

JACKSON — The Township Council has expressed its displeasure with what it says is an unfunded mandate being placed on the municipality by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The DOT is requiring all state and local governments to re-fit and re-face street signs to meet new lettering and reflectivity standards.

The requirement was opposed by the council in a resolution that was passed on March 8. Jackson officials want the regulation repealed.

Municipal Engineer Dan Burke addressed the issue at the council meeting.

“This issue was raised at the state board of municipal engineers, and the issue at hand is that the latest version of the uniform traffic control device [put forth] by the federal highway administration requires the replacement of all street signs to meet reflectivity requirements at an extraordinary cost,” he told the council members.

Burke said this unfunded mandate coming from the federal government will cost Jackson a significant amount of money. He said every street sign in the municipality would have to be replaced in order to comply with the mandate.

Words on the new signs would be spelled out in upper- and lower-case letters (as opposed to all capital letters) because, he said, it is believed the upper and lower case letters can be more easily read than a sign with all capital letters.

Council President Scott Martin said the federal government is trying to tax local governments, which are already shedding jobs and laying off employees.

Burke said it might make sense to make the changes being mandated by the federal government as local signs need to be replaced.

“But to blanket it across [the country] is just an extraordinary cost that municipalities and counties are not able to bear at this time,” he said.

Martin said it could cost Jackson taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace all of the signs involved.

Resident Gary Black said he supports the council’s resolution in opposition to the DOT requirement.

“This is a ridiculous law coming out of the federal government,” Black said. “I can see an upgrade when there is a reason, but to require all the road signs in the country to be changed is beyond ridiculous.”

Black said the mandate is a waste of money.

Resident Sean Giblin, a former Jackson township committeeman and mayor, asked what would have to be changed on signs around town.

Burke said every sign would have to be checked for reflectivity and he said the coating would have to be changed on all signs, including street signs at corners.

“Changing the signs on a replacement basis is the appropriate thing to do when you upgrade a road, or make repairs or improvements,” Burke said. “It’s the intensity of the deadline that would create a hardship.

“I know that the state and municipal engineers have passed a [similar] resolution [in opposition to the federal mandate] and they have encouraged others to do the same.”

He said engineers are not opposed to the idea of upgrading signs when necessary, but he said they are opposed to the requirement of having to change all of a municipality’s signs at once.

“It’s impacting [the town] and it’s an unfunded mandate,” Burke said.

The council passed the resolution opposing the DOT’s sign mandate.