Merced may someday welcome motorists with signs along highways running through town under a proposal endorsed by the City Council.
The council voted unanimously Monday to set up a committee to research the costs, designs, funding and other aspects of the signs that would mark the entrances on highways 99, 140 and 59. Councilman Michael Belluomini, Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Blake and Councilman Anthony Martinez volunteered to be on the committee, which also will include residents.
Belluomini said he did research of his own, asking a signmaker to estimate the costs for potential designs on Highway 99.
“Many cities in the Central Valley have entry signs on Highway 99 at the north and south entries,” he said. “Merced is one of the few cities of its size that does not have signs.”
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Merced is one of the few cities of its size that does not have signs.
Councilman Michael Belluomini
A sign that would hang from the Campus Parkway overpass at the southern end of town would cost $40,000 to $50,000, he said, and a free-standing sign near the 16th Street exit on the north end would cost $50,000 to $70,000. He suggested that smaller signs could go up on 140 and 59, and service clubs could help raise money for those signs.
Though he generally supported having welcome signs, Councilman Matt Serratto cautioned the council to make sure the signs did not push out something that should take priority. “There’s certainly a lot of worthy causes and needs in this town, and it’s going to come down to prioritizing it,” he said.
Every budget season the council is asked to fund new programs, and most often those new services are related to recreation and job-training for young people.
There’s certainly a lot of worthy causes and needs in this town and it’s going to come down to prioritizing it.
Councilman Matt Serratto
Belluomini went on to say signs could be welcoming to visitors but also reveal the character of Merced’s residents. The smaller signs on 59 and 140 could carry the logos of service clubs, he said.
Martinez said he’d prefer to stay away from logos, noting that small towns in the Valley commonly have club logos on welcome signs. “I don’t want to be like the other towns in this area,” he said. “I want to be unique and stand out.”
Blake said he’d also like to take a look at adding an arch inside the city, similar to archways erected over 16th Street in 1927.
The arches were topped with electric signs reading “Merced: Gateway to Yosemite.” One arch was torn down before 1940 when Highway 99 was widened, according to Sarah Lim, director of the Merced County Courthouse Museum. What became of a second arch is unclear.