Sign & Digital Graphics

April '18

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8 • April 2018 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Mother May I? Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S In the Trenches When I complained she said I had violated the code at least two other times recently, and she named the jobs, one of which I never heard of, and the other one was two doors down from City Hall, and you can bet I got a permit before touching that one. Ridiculous! That night I wrote a scalding email to everyone in that town's inspection department and told them exactly what I thought about how I was being treated. I pulled no punches, not a one… except for not "punching" the send button on my computer. I waited about a week and then called, hoping not to talk to Jessica, but to her boss Karrisa, but Jessica answered the line. My introduction was saying something about her probably remem- bering the unpleasant conversation we had a while back, and then to my total surprise she apologized, and said if I wanted to I could appeal the fine that was added to that after-the-fact sign permit free. That night, before I wrote another email, I read their rather brief sign code and was surprised to find it required a permit "for any signwork over the amount of $25." Can you imagine the gridlock at that town hall if they required every type of contrac- tor to march down there every time they did 15 minutes of work in even that small town. I too would love to section off several square miles of territory and say, "Now any contractor that does any work at all in my domain owes me money," and enforce it. But, of course, for me it would be considered organized crime and I would go to prison for even trying it. But a little below the initial ridiculous demand in their sign code was the "exceptions part," and I quoted it verbatim where it said, "The changing of moveable parts of signs which are designed for changing, the repainting of display matter or framework, or the replacement of sign faces shall not be deemed to be an alteration or repair under the terms hereof," (which means does not require a permit). It was a perfect description of what I had done, couldn't have written a better one myself. By email I was informed that my appeal had been granted, but I owed the permit fee minus the fine. To me, it was all still stupid, but not a painful stupid. So, as you might imagine, when I finally retire from this business, which I generally like, the one thing I will not miss, more than any other, is the "mother-may-I" game I'm required to play, especially when it is obvious that safety, insurance and real things like that have nothing to do with it. What this really has to do with is letting us mere mortals know who is in charge… and it for danged sure isn't me… or probably you either. But you and I might as well have a great month, or at least a good one, just the same. I remember that day because the wind was blowing so hard and trying to damage the light gauge 4' x 8' sign faces I was replacing in that non-lighted monument sign. I had installed it a couple of years before over in a small town about 15 miles from the shop. I won't mention the name of the town to pro- tect the guilty. Somehow, I also managed to paint the framework on the whole sign with spray can paint, miraculously without dust becoming a part of the finish, changing the color of the base to the new owner's color scheme. That was way back around Thanksgiving, and a couple of weeks ago I received a call from the city inspector there, and he informed me that he had just found out who had worked on that sign and that I should have gotten a permit for the work, and I had better apply for one right away. I was puzzled, and told him as much, as swapping out faces and doing a quick face lift with paint bombs should not require a new permit, as I had permitted the sign back when it was new. He was having none of my explanation, and basically com- manded me to get a permit as soon as possible, and I said I would. Fighting with the city, any city, is a waste of time. Even a dumb sign guy like me knows that much. A week or so later I received a call from Jessica (not her real name), the staff person who handles a lot of the paperwork in the inspection department there, saying my permit for this $800 job was ready, and the cost was $255! Oh, good grief! I was not a happy camper, and I didn't mind if she knew it.

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