Friday, March 24, 2006

A Bright Welcome

A Bright Welcome
New Sign Will Greet Vacaville Visitors
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

The new downtown Vacaville sign is installed Thursday morning over Davis Street. The $63,000-marquee replaced a previous version. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

Downtown Vacaville visitors received a surprising welcome Thursday, as a long-awaited arch over Davis Street was finally installed.
The $63,000 marquee, replete with bold white lettering and traffic-cone orange hills, was hoisted high between two Davis Street lampposts early Thursday morning.

The sign - or a version of it - was first scheduled to greet downtown visitors nearly a year ago.

In May 2004, the arch was complete and installation dates were set. City Manager David Van Kirk visited JSJ Electrical Display's Benicia shop to take a look at the finished product. But instead of giving it a thumb's up, he canceled the installation and called for numerous modifications.

Van Kirk said the initial sign didn't meet the city's standards of quality, so the design was reformulated. The city manager said the biggest issue was one of the materials used in the sign's decorative hills and clouds.

The first version used vinyl cut-outs, while the new arch is made with those artistic features brushed right on with long-lasting aviation paint.

"That was my main concern," Van Kirk said. "I wanted to save taxpayers money in the long-run by preventing future maintenance problems. This wasn't a matter so much of spending extra money as it was spending extra time."

The first version of the sign cost $25,000. It was completely salvaged, Van Kirk said, but additional lighting and "pop-out" elements added almost $40,000 to the bill.

The changes were on display Thursday, as a section of Davis between Catherine and Main streets was closed to traffic for several hours while JSJ Electrical workers put the sign into place.

Early reviews were mixed.

"Too gaudy," said Tom Redican, a member of The Reporter's Reader Network after viewing a picture of the sign on

The Reporter is conducting an online poll on the sign and by press time those who like the design were slightly outnumbering those who didn't.

Mayor Len Augustine, who last summer supported Van Kirk's decision to redo the sign, said he went by the arch early Thursday to catch a glimpse.

"I think it's a nice addition to the downtown area."

Vice Mayor Pauline Clancy said she looks forward to seeing the neon elements of the sign lit at night.

"I hope everyone enjoys it," she said. "A lot of thought and planning went into it."

Reader Network member Kristen Loomis, viewing an image of the sign, had mixed feelings.

"It's a very pretty sign, but what bothers me is the 'Disneyfication' of downtown," Loomis said. "It used to be a real historical downtown. Now, you have to look for the old town in between all the 'ersatz-Olde-Towne' enhancements."

Riita DeAnda of the Reader Network expressed enthusiasm for the arch.

"I like the archway," she said. "The sign is bright and reflects Vacaville's agricultural roots."

Tom Hall can be reached at

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