BY JUDY SHERIDAN
The big and often brightly colored message boards outside Maria Bonita’s restaurant on FM Road 1187 may soon disappear, judging from the thoughts expressed by Aledo City Council members and others during a joint work session of city boards Tuesday.
The unique signs — in a near constant state of flux — announce team victories, meetings and events. They mark birthdays and other special occasions in a big way from a highly visible location on the main drag that most Aledo residents are likely to pass.
The signs are a safety hazard, however, said Mayor Kit Marshall, especially with ongoing construction in the area.
“I’m deeply concerned, as there’s been digging and re-routing of lines,” she said, “and I don’t want someone getting hurt putting up a celebratory message.”
Marshall said the signs, which first appeared when a store on the site was torn down, are not historic, unlike the Paint Shack that the Aledo Church of Christ has agreed to keep in its parking lot.
The shack is also used for messages.
The mayor also questioned whether Aledo residents use the signs.
“I wonder what percentage of those messages are from residents of our city versus those of the greater community,” she said.
Public Works Director Gordon Smith said the FM Road 1187 signs are located on both city right-of-way and private property.
“If someone is painting the north side of the sign, they’re on Maria Bonita’s property,” he said. “If they’re painting the south side, they’re in the city right-of-way.”
Councilwoman Jean Bailey said she was in favor of removing the signs. She thought they might detract from the mural Aledo High School students are painting on the restaurant’s exterior wall, but also worried that the mural space might invite a backlash of messages if the signs go away.
Bailey echoed Marshall’s sentiments on safety.
“I think it’s a very dangerous place, especially when people driving on the streets are merging,” she said.
Councilwoman Kim Hiebert supported taking down the signs, saying, “They look pretty bad.”
“There’s something really special about those message boards,” she conceded, “but there’s still the historical building, and that’s allowed.”
Councilman Bill McLeRoy and another board member championed the message boards, saying they are part of a unique community tradition.
“It isn’t bothering me that there’s not another city doing this,” McLeRoy said, commenting that overregulation by cities inhibits the expression of viewpoints.
“My input is to try to find another venue — private property somewhere else — where we can do something similar.”
Warren Pearson offered that the city could take the signs down during road construction “with the caveat that you’re studying putting it in another place.”
“Is there a consensus that we remove the signs for safety?” Marshall asked. “All right, during that time, we’ll look at other options.”