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Harrison commission won't renew billboard lease

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

The Harrison County Commission agreed on Tuesday to deny the renewal of a lease that placed a billboard on public property.

During its regular meeting, commission members learned that the county had leased space on property adjacent to the 4-H Center on U.S. Route 19 to Lamar Outdoor Advertising since 1958.

The company, formerly Standard Advertising and then McWhorter Advertising before becoming Lamar, placed its billboard along the roadside at the base of the property.

Lamar Advertising wrote to the county commission, informing it of the lease and offering to pay a standard fee of $500 a year to lease the space for the next 10 years. Since 1958, the companies had paid the county only $15 a year.

After a discussion between Commission President Roger Diaz and commissioners Beth Taylor and Tom Keeley, the three agreed it would be best to deny the renewal of the lease.

"It's just not a good idea to have the billboard on public property, as we have no control over what is advertised on the sign. Also, they suggested a 10-year lease, and we can't legally offer more than a one-year lease," Keeley said.

Several billboard signs are located along that section of the road, but no residents have complained to the commission about them.

Frank Giaquinto, who manages the pro shop at Sunny Croft Country Club, across the road from the sign, said he's also heard no complaints.

"We still feel it's in the best interest to deny the lease," Diaz said.

In other business, commission members agreed to table any action on distribution of the county's fund balance until its Thursday meeting. In a preliminary report, the commission had $1,070,000 to carry over from last year's budget.

Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447.

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