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On The Money: Elk Grove’s Welcome Sign Waste?

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What’s the point of a welcome sign you can’t see?

Some Northern California residents are asking that very question, after the City of Elk Grove bought a welcome sign — a sign that critics say is on the wrong side of the freeway — and taxpayers are the ones paying for it.

The new sign, built along Highway 99 near Sheldon Road, is made of brick and stucco and sports a stylized Elk and the message “Welcome to Elk Grove.”

“It really generates people to say, ‘Elk Grove is a nice place,'” said Public Works Director Richard Shepard, who has overseen the construction of the new Sheldon Road interchange.

Shepard said he is proud of Elk Grove’s new sign, which towers 12 feet high and is more than 20 feet wide — and cost taxpayers about $27,000 to design and build.

“The city thought it would be a great investment,” he said. “We have over 100,000 people driving through the city every day.”

But Elk Grove resident Lynn Anthony calls the sign a “beautiful” waste of taxpayer dollars.

“It’s a showpiece sign that says, ‘Welcome to Elk Grove,'” said Anthony, who travels along Sheldon Road every day. “It’s just too bad nobody can see it.”

Anthony said the sign is on the wrong side of the freeway, making it difficult to see for southbound drivers — especially across six lanes of busy traffic. She said she only noticed the sign because she saw the back of it when she was leaving Elk Grove.

“We were watching them put the letters and we thought, ‘Did they make a mistake?'” she said.

The city paid about $4,000 for the design of the sign, and about $27,000 dollars in total.

Factor in the identical sign at Highway 99 and Grant Line Road on the other side of Elk Grove — which was built on the more-common right side, for drivers to see — and the city’s Highway 99 rebranding effort totals more than $50,000, according to officials.

Shepard said placement for the Sheldon sign — which greets incoming traffic through their driver’s-side window rather than their windshield — was determined by a small committee, and it was in fact placed at the best location, since a cemetery is on the freeway’s opposite side.

“When you’re going to spend that kind of money on a sign, you’d think that you want to have it seen,” Anthony said.

So why put it up at all?

“We don’t own any city property over there,” Shepard said, “so this became the most viable spot for facing southbound traffic as you’re coming into the city.”

Elk Grove city officials told CBS Sacramento the sign is part of a larger landscaping project at Sheldon Road and Highway 99.

At the time of interview, the sign’s lights had not yet been installed, but Shepard said the sign should be much more visible to incoming traffic at night.

If you see examples of government waste, send us an e-mail to onthemoney@kovr.com. You can also follow On The Money stories in progress via Twitter at http://twitter.com/mikeluery and via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CBS13OnTheMoney.

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