Could Pickerington's newest water tower become a beacon for local business promotion?

Could Pickerington's newest water tower become a beacon for local business promotion?

If Don Smith, owner of the popular Rule (3) entertainment and bowling center, gets his way, then yes.

Smith, who operates Rule (3) at 650 Windmiller Drive, told the Pickerington City Council finance committee Jan. 18 that he'd rather advertise on the city's new 750,000-gallon water tower just west of Windmiller Drive near Refugee Road, than spend up to $5,000 a year to promote his business on a nearby, privately owned billboard.

"(The water tower) is a good signage location for our facility," Smith said. "I would think other businesses would feel the same.

"That could be renewable income for the city. É If it possibly helps the city out, it's a win-win for everybody."

Smith's request came during a meeting at which the finance committee, which includes all seven council members, spent more than an hour discussing various plans to educate residents about the city's need to generate new revenue. Those plans include spending $12,000 to conduct a citizen survey to —among other things — gauge the public's willingness to support an income tax or police levy.

The committee also supported spending $24,500 to conduct a performance audit of the police department. That project's goals include comparing Pickerington's police resources and budget to other communities' and possibly establishing that more revenue is needed to support increases in personnel and services within the department.

"(The water tower) belongs to Pickerington," Smith said. "Why not rent out that space with a yearly renewal? It would pay for some of these studies."

City engineer Greg Bachman said he's never been involved in projects to advertise on public water towers, and some questions remain as to feasibility. They would include determining the best way to paint or apply advertisements on a structure that typically is painted just once every 15 to 25 years.

Mayor Mitch O'Brien said he would favor using the $1.74-million water tower to promote development in the city, rather than existing businesses.

The 180-foot tower, which was constructed last November and will be operational this July, complements a 500,000-gallon elevated water tank off Longview Street and a 1-million-gallon tank off East Columbus Street. It was designed to provide more water capacity for firefighters on the city's northeast side, as well as facilitate future development along Refugee Road, a key commercial corridor for Pickerington.

"If we're going to market, I would rather market it as Pickerington infrastructure," O'Brien said.

Still, several council members were cautiously receptive to the proposal.

Councilwoman Cristie Hammond said she was "not terribly opposed" to allowing advertisements on the tower as long as the city was selective so the ads don't end up promoting companies or stores after they've gone out of business.

Council president pro tempore Brian Sauer, vice president pro tempore Tony Barletta and councilman Gavin Blair also said they might support the advertisements after further consideration.

Councilman Jeff Fix said other Ohio communities have allowed advertisements on water towers, but he couldn't recall which ones. He added he would support allowing them in Pickerington if the city reserved the right to reject businesses it feels are immoral or that promote products the city doesn't support.

"If there's a way to enhance (local businesses') standings in the community and generate (city) revenue at the same time, I think it's something to consider," he said.

Last June, council adopted the city's first policy for naming and renaming city streets and establishing honorary street designations. Additionally, the policy provided guidelines for selling naming rights to city buildings, parks and other facilities.

Prior to the adoption of that policy, the city had accepted sponsorships for events, such as its "Friday Flicks" movie series in Sycamore Park presented by Fairfield Federal Savings and Loan, and the Giant Eagle Summer Concert Series.