The Town Council Monday night heard a representative of Lamar Advertising, a billboard company with offices in East Providence, propose erecting two billboards along town-owned property on Route 4 next to the high school.
Lamar proposed two options, one that would include one electronic and one static billboard and one that would be just two static billboards.
In Lamar’s proposal, the company would pay East Greenwich $207,600 a year for one “static” (i.e. old-school) board and one electronic board. It would offer $73,800 a year in rent for two static-only boards. The rent would increase, according to both proposals, every 4 years for 20 years.
“What we’re going to do tonight is listen,” said Council President Michael Isaacs. “We are not going to take a vote.” Rather, he said, he wanted to get a sense of what council members were thinking.
Councilman Mark Gee was eager to share his thoughts.
"I am astounded that we could consider this offer," he began. "Let’s not sell our souls just because we need to raise revenue. I’m astounded that we would take a beautiful greenway … and do that."
He continued, "That would be a huge, huge, inconceivable mistake."
Gee also raised concerns about electronic billboards, saying they were a "hazard to navigation."
Other councilors were not so critical. Isaacs said he wanted to see the proposal through, and Councilman Mike Kiernan said the money raised could help pay for things like road repairs.
The two billboards would measure 14 feet by 48 feet and they would be double-faced.
The Lamar spokesman, Chris Cockerill, said the electronic billboard would not be flashing. Rather, he said, it would provide stationary screen changes every 10 seconds.
There will have to be a public hearing on the proposal before the Town Council can act. No date has yet been determined for the hearing.