OLEAN — They might be temporary, but the new “Welcome to Olean” banners are a step in the right direction, said the man who hung them up.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” said Jarrad Childs of Four Mile Brewing, who recently put up two new banners over the 30-year-old signs along East State and Buffalo streets thanks to a cooperative effort between the brewery, InTandem, Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce and city officials.
“Sometimes it takes a little bit — but as long as it’s moving forward, it’s a good thing,” he said.
More banners are ready for the signs on West State Street and North Union Street Extension, he said, and those will be done as the weather allows in the next week or so.
The banners will be replaced in the next year, he said, with more permanent displays.
“It’s kind of temporary — and I know it’s not the most beautiful,” Childs said, but they are a far cry from the deplorable condition of the existing signs.
The signs were erected in the early 1990s as part of a collaborative effort between the Chamber, what is now InTandem, and various local civic groups. They were repainted about a decade ago, but had been allowed to deteriorate due to lack of interest.
In July 2019, a push to fix up the signs began, with brewery leaders, the Chamber and InTandem restoring several to a more presentable state.
The work was short-lived, as two of the signs — on Buffalo and West State streets — were vandalized in the fall, destroying several of the plastic letters that were less than a year old. The damage was estimated at more than $1,000, not to mention delays in ordering replacements.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s trying to do something positive for our community,” Childs said.
When completed, the refurbished signs will be enclosed with plexiglas to protect them from accidental and intentional damage.
“We’re also going to get some solar lights,” he said, which will improve visibility around the clock and hopefully help deter future vandalism. “When they’re unveiled, we’re going to get some ‘wows’ and ‘oohs and ahs,’ I hope.”
Moving forward, Childs said he hopes to have businesses, civic organizations and other groups help with sign maintenance in an “adopt-a-highway”-style program, with the sponsoring group getting recognition for keeping up the maintenance on the signs.
Childs thanked Meme Yanetsko, COO of the Chamber, and Mayor Bill Aiello for their support of the project, including logistics of accessing the signs which are placed on private property.
He noted that a GoFundMe, established in October by Common Council President John Crawford and Olean native Paul Petruzzi, has raised $4,200 of a $5,000 goal from more than 50 donors to back up the sign restoration effort.
To view the online fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/f/repair-the-quotwelcome-to-oleanquot-signs