Political candidates and other individuals and businesses with illegal signs placed on state highway department right-of-way are being warned their signs will be taken down next week.
Between March 26 and 30, highway crews in Letcher County and the six other counties that make Highway District 12 will blitz through each county to remove signs that are illegally installed on state property.
It is illegal to place a sign on state right-of-way, highway officials say. It is also illegal to attach a sign to a structure already installed on state right-of-way. Highway workers have an ongoing directive to remove such signs from roadsides and intersections. In addition to Letcher, District 12 includes Lawrence, Johnson, Floyd, Martin, Knott, and Pike counties.
“There are more political signs this time of year than any other type,” said Mary Westfall-Holbrook, Chief District Engineer, “but we will remove any and all signs that we find, not just political signs. The only signs allowed on state property are state signs.”
As an example, Westfall-Holbrook cited sale signs for a business, those advertising a number to call about jobs. “Even posting a sign for a yard sale, taped to a speed limit sign or a stop sign, for example, is illegal,” she said.
Businesses and individuals sometimes invest a lot of money and work into such signs, she noted. “But the fact is, they create safety problems, sight distance issues, and it is our responsibility to make the roads as safe as we can. They interfere with mowing and litter pickup, and recently have interfered with snow and ice removal.”
Warmer weather means that maintenance crews will be cleaning out ditchlines and replacing cross drains. Illegal signs interfere with this work as well.
“In the interest of safety and maintenance, our crews have been directed to remove all illegal signs,” Westfall-Holbrook said. “We have had a few blitz programs in the past, warning people in advance and then spending an entire week or more taking down signs. By now people should know that putting signs on state right-of-way is not permissible. It is, in fact, against the law.”
Westfall-Holbrook said that signs that are removed will be kept at the nearest maintenance facility, in Letcher County’s case at Mayking, for about a month in case the owner wants them back so they can be put on private property. “We don’t have to keep them or return them, so when we clean out the lot, they will be destroyed,” she cautioned. “We are not responsible for damage to any sign or sign post that we remove, since they were installed illegally to begin with.”
If people want to remove their own signs, rather than run the risk they will be damaged or destroyed when the state removes them, that is their choice, Westfall- Holbrook said.
“ We aren’t trying to sound mean about this,” she said. “It’s simply part of our job. We really believe that most taxpayers would rather we spend our time patching potholes or cleaning out ditchlines instead of taking down signs that shouldn’t be there in the first place.”