When Patch recently took the temperature of our online audience via our Facebook page, we found an overwhelming number of people believed that the old "Rohnert Park - The Friendly City" sign at the south end of Commerce Boulevard was the best symbol of the town.
Along with that support was disappointment that the sign was in such bad shape, and a longing for its improvement.
But if city officials, local service organizations, contractors and other individuals have their way, the sign should be looking better very soon. As Samantha Till announced on , the reconstruction of the iconic Rohnert Park sign is underway.
"The sign is being completely restored," she told Patch, "and once we have all the donations officially confirmed, it will take about 2 weeks to complete this project, thanks to the high number of volunteers!"
While at this point it's technically a restoration-in-planning, several contractors, a certain amount of money, and local service clubs have been lined up. The goal is to reconstruct the sign at little-or-no cost to the city.
"At first I just wanted to paint to over before the 50th anniversary celebration," said former planning commission chair , who many regard as the driver of the project. "I didn't want to have to compete for funds with the 50th anniversary celebration, things are so tight in the budget everywhere."
Armstrong started thinking about the reconstruction when he was still on the planning commission, at least in part because of planning director Marilyn Pontin role the the restoration of the historic Las Vegas sign. That gave Armstrong the confidence to think about getting the job done in Rohnert Park.
The city employee in charge of the project now, according to Till, is general services supervisor Tom Kelley. He told Patch the project could be done in a couple of days - but there are things that could hold it up.
"I can't start it until I have the funds in the bank account," he said. "The sign part, the plastic that goes up there, supposedly could be made in 10 days, everything else is back-to-back and takes no time at all."
The signs themselves are among the most expensive items in the $25,000 budget for the project, along with the ballast for the lighting. There are custom-made, eight-polygonal-Lexan signs needed - both sides of the four sign panels that remain.
Interestingly, there used to be a fifth sign on the tower.
"The sign was first erected in October 1961," said Till, "and originally had the RP continuously revolving. The lowest six-sided polygon is no longer to be found, but then proudly announced 'Sonoma State College.'
"While things started out friendly, somewhere along the way Cotati asserted that the college belonged to their town, and many students agreed. However, 'under a 99-year agreement, Rohnert Park may annex the university site into its borders, but no other city can'," she said, quoting the Tri City Times.
By the 1980s, the bottom piece of the sign had become “The Friendly City.” Since then, trees in the area have grown up to partially obscure the sign, the lighting stopped working, paint chipped and several of the panels sustained damage.
According to Till, the list of materials and effort is long, but by no means insurmountable. It includes
- Eight new Lexan (polycarbonate sheeting) panels
- Remove/replace florescent lamps with LED
- Cost of LED lamps
- Prepping and painting of sign
- Removal and replacement of panels
- Gateway sign
- Tree removal
- New steel for the base
Many people have been talking about the sign's restoration for years, but Kelley credits Anderson with really getting the project going. "He found out I had an interest in the project, and he contacted me.
"He ran into some snags, then all of a sudden we sparked it back up, and since then it's been going like gangbusters." The imminent of Rohnert Park's establishment, set for Sept. 15, is seen as a major incentive.”
Armstrong started generating interest among his contacts in service organizations, and soon he had the support of the, the and several others - as well as a $3500 grant from as a "down payment" on the $24,000 cost of restoration.
The painting is all going to be dominated is by a local painting company, including materials; another local company is donating labor and most of the materials as well for the electrical work. "I don’t' really know if we should name anybody until I get all the names of people who are donating stuff," said Kelley. "There's a huge group."
"My main goal was to have the community come together, and it seems to be doing that," said Armstrong.
People interested in helping out with a donation, at this point perhaps the most important need, should contact Dave Armstrong by email.
If you have labor or materials contributions, please contact Tom Kelley at his cell phone, (707) 328-2589.
Hopefully by Sept. 15 and the city's 50th anniversary celebration, Rohnert Park can be proud once again of the sign that heralds its motto, "The Friendly City."
We will continue to follow this story.