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City slogans on gateway signs could be on their way out of town

'If there were no health and safety laws, I would physically like to strip them off with my own hands,' says Coun. Sergio Morales

Coun. Sergio Morales says the slogans 'well played' and 'well connected' on the city's gateway signs along Highway 400 are "missing the mark" and should be removed. 

The Ward 9 councillor, who raised the idea at last night's general committee meeting, wants to see the phrases taken off the signs, which are located near the city limits along Highway 400 at either end of Barrie. 

Morales said the city slogan ranks up there with debates over chimineas and talks around a waterfront baseball stadium as far as topics he has heard about most from constituents in his years on council. 

"There's been very few things that I've heard as much about before a council meeting. They're usually development applications, but this one, even right up until at 7 p.m., I've had people messaging me," Morales said.

He's not a fan of 'well played' and 'well connected'.

"If there were no health and safety laws, I would physically like to strip them off with my own hands," Morales said. 

Others around the council table were less enthused about the idea. 

Deputy Mayor Barry Ward says it seems like a non-issue. 

"I really don't care one way or the other," Ward said. "I have never had a single comment or email from anybody, positive or negative, about them."

Mayor Jeff Lehman said he's heard comments on both sides of the fence and added most municipalities have signs with slogans that are "totally meaningless," but agreed with Ward.

"City council has far more important matters to be tackling than micromanaging the design of our gateway signs," Lehman said. "With great respect, if this is something council wants to do, let's do it and move on."

Morales says he appreciates the notion being suggested by the taglines — alluding to the city's sports and recreation, as well as its geographical positioning within central Ontario — but questioned whether the city could do better. 

"Frankly, we missed the mark," said Morales, adding he's sees the connotation behind 'well played' as having tripped someone up. "I think sometimes politicians, they tend to double down and they can't seem to admit when an idea was a bad one."

Morales said he doesn't want it to be a "shaming exercise," but added it's OK to admit a mistake with the slogans and move on. He's pushing to have the words removed from the city's gateway signs, calling it a "positive opportunity. This allows us to take a pause, take off the taglines and reassess where we go."

Coun. Clare Riepma said he doesn't like the tense. "It's yesterday. I'm not sure that they really speak to what the city is about."

Coun. Mike McCann said he'd also like to see the city rebrand itself, particularly with tourism, while also pointing out that any concerns around the taglines fall to council and not city staff, who were not given the proper resources to properly market and brand the slogans. 

"That really is council's fault. That falls on our lap," he said.

McCann said he didn't want to see the words removed and the signs left blank. "What are we going to do in that space? Is it going to look vacant?"

City staff clarified that only the slogans would be removed from the bottom-right portion of the signs, which also feature the city's large logo as the centrepiece. 

"The 'well played' and 'well connected' is a very small section of the gateway sign," said Rebecca James-Reid, the city's executive director of Access Barrie. "The intent would be to dispose of those. We're not reusing them."

The large city logo would remain and the roads department would continue to provide landscaping around the signs.

"I think it would still look pretty nice as you come into the community," James-Reid said.

At a cost of up to $2,000, the work could be funded from council's strategic priorities seserve. The exact cost remains unknown until city staff have a chance to take a closer look. 

Coun. Gary Harvey said he was "indifferent" on the issue, but added it's likely nothing more than a few bolts that city staff could remove.

James-Reid said the city would also need to go back to the manufacturer to ensure the signs' integrity isn't compromised. Ministry of Transportation approvals would also need to be acquired. 

"You can't just go out on the highway and jump out and cut off (parts) of the sign," she said. "There could be fees and applications for that. I expect it will be much less than the $2,000, but it was just given as an allocation to make sure we had it covered."

The item was passed, with only Ward voting against it. 

Any action still requires final approval by city council next week. 

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Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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