Digital Billboard Deal Discussion Tabled, Will Return As A Community Forum Topic If At All

dcs billboard
A proposed deal for two one-sided digital billboards on school property has been set aside for now.

Those concerned about a deal between Adams Outdoor and the Dexter Community School district doubling the billboard population in town in a deal that would have netted the district nearly a half million dollars over the span of a decade can relax for the time being, as district officials have backed off this particular discussion topic.

Those who were positive on the idea of an additional billboard at Baker and another at Dexter Ann Arbor Road, both of which already have a two-sided static analogue billboard in place, might have another chance to speak their peace on the deal, alongside the majority of folks in the public and on social media who have spoken against placing the one-sided digital, one-side static analog billboards near Creekside Intermediate School and Mill Creek Middle School respectively.

“There is no intention to revisit the proposal for at least several months, if at all,” DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis. “If the proposal is revisited, we will notify parents and the community that it is being considered.”

While the first round of talks at a DCS Board of Education meeting on January 9 was more informational and hadn’t yet drawn public attention and awareness to the matter, the following meeting on January 23 saw a number of residents show up to voice their concerns about the billboards.

Several BoE members including Rob Mitzel, Julie Schumaker, and Dick Lundy also came out more strongly against the additional billboards after seeing reaction to the topic in the public discourse after the January 9 meeting, which was where the topic landed after Adams Outdoor spokesman Michael Thompson and Sharon Raschke, the district’s director of finance and business, brought the contract language that would have governed the deal before the board after hammering it out in committee.

“I just don’t think it fits,” Mitzel said, while Schumaker raised some concerns that she felt would be addressed by contract language that Adams Outdoor spokesman Michael Thompson indicated might be onerous, such as an immediate termination clause that the district could activate should there be violations of the content guidelines that prohibit obscene and other objectionable ad content from being displayed from district property on the proposed billboards.

Mitzel asked if the south-facing digital side of the billboards being static would be a problem for Thompson, to which the Adams Outdoor spokesman indicated that it would be a deal-breaker. Public comments urging a relocation of the Baker Road billboard to Dan Hoey where the light it would generate would both no residential properties was met with a similar lack of interest from Adams’ side of the table due to much lower traffic volume.

Lundy hearkened back to the district declining past deals with soda companies to place vending machines in Dexter schools despite lucrative contracts providing regular stipends into the Dexter school system’s slowly dwindling coffers, because the board members at the time decided to place the wellbeing of the student community and the broader community at large ahead of generating revenue.

“We take things into consideration other than monetary advantage,” Lundy said with a winking smile.

While public comment was heavily weighted against the billboard deal, some businesses indicated that they would have been eager to advertise on it.

Robert Bowden of Robert Bowden Photography was one of the folks who spoke in favor of the billboards being erected on school property, where the structures would be placeable despite city and township ordinances prohibiting them in on those parcels due to the way the law treats public school property from a local regulatory perspective.

“Lets do this! I will be one of the first to advertise on it,” Bowden cheered.

Timmmis highlighted the financial health of the district as the main driver behind entertaining the deal with Adams Outdoor.

“According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, the Michigan School Aid fund is at 1995 levels,” he explained. “This has resulted in continuous strains on providing appropriate programming options for students combined with employee financial concessions for nearly a decade.

“This school year represents the first time our employee groups received non-concessionary contracts since 2007-2008. Having spent nearly a decade cutting budgets while protecting programs for students and reducing compensation to employees, the Board feels a responsibility to consider reasonable offers that can support our students.”

With that said, Timmis stated that finances are not always the overriding concern of the district when faced with opportunities like the one presented in this case.

“At this time, the Board does not appear to have an intention to place the item on an agenda again for approval,” he said, adding that the board “has not formally decided to turn down the offer, but are considering the input received during these public meetings before discussing the proposal again.”

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