‘Bell tower square’ or ‘courthouse square’? The discussion continues

The center block of Jefferson on which the county courthouse and the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower stand may end up being somewhat officially designated as “the square.”

Jefferson Matters: Main Street program director Peg Raney, with Jefferson city administrator Mike Palmer and Jefferson mayor Craig Berry, met with the county supervisors Oct. 30 to talk about how the block should be labeled on wayfinding signage proposed by Jefferson Matters.

The July proposal for $140,000 in new signage refers to the “Bell Tower Square.” When the supervisors received fly-by information about the signage earlier this fall they took exception to that designation, preferring “courthouse square” for the directional signs.

Raney used the same PowerPoint® presentation she used with the Jefferson city council and several local organizations, noting that planning for a new Jefferson logo and wayfinding signage began last winter. Raney said the planning committee, which included persons from several organizations, considered using “downtown,” “historic downtown” and “shopping district” for the signs. The goal was to direct visitors to where they could spend money in Jefferson, Raney said.

Board of supervisors chair John Muir apologized for the supervisors’ lack of involvement in the planning process, and admitted they’re “late to the party.”

The plan includes 20 signs that direct visitors to the “bell tower square,” schools, the medical center, the bike trail, and other destinations. “Out of all of them, the courthouse is listed on only one of them. We feel slighted. We’d like more signs,” Muir said.

Berry pointed out that the supervisors have taken no steps toward wayfinding signs to the courthouse previously, inferring that if it is important, the supervisors should have had Department of Transportation signs posted.

He said that every county seat town has a courthouse, but the bell tower is a unique feature.

“It’s what we’re recognized for,” Raney said about the bell tower. “It’s our image, like it or not.”

Muir admitted to some insecurity on the part of the supervisors on behalf of the county. “We don’t want to lose our identity. If the signs say ‘bell tower square’ we worry that it’s another step in losing our identity,” he said. “We don’t want it to be the courthouse next to the tower. We want it to be the tower next to the courthouse.”

Supervisors Mick Burkett and Tom Contner both said they’d prefer the signs say “courthouse square,” but neither gave reasons. Supervisor Peter Bardole said he would be okay with “the square,” and encouraged that merchants be uniform as they advertise their location.

Raney and Palmer said they would have more discussion with RDG, the planning and design group that wrote the proposal before the plan is implemented. The county owns the courthouse and the bell tower, but the city of Jefferson would be paying for the signage.

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