Dana Cole

san pedro valley news-sun

Once approved by city council members, Benson will have a new billboard – or possibly billboards - along Interstate 10 to advertise and promote the city.

In an effort to draw travelers into Benson and help spark the city’s economy, a billboard is being designed, but must first meet the council’s approval. A group of individuals consisting of Cheryl Mammano, Heather Floyd, Lupe Diaz and Bob Nilson have been working on different ideas, with four possibilities presented to the council by Nilson during Monday’s meeting. After listening to input from council members, Nilson and the group will be going back to the drawing board to work on more designs.

During the meeting’s call to the public, Jim Gray, owner of Dillon’s Corral, said he was out of town when the group was meeting, and would like to have some input in the design process, if it’s not too late. Gray has appeared before the council on numerous occasions urging members to fund such a sign, stating that travelers need to know what amenities Benson has to offer. Now that funding has been made available, Gray says he hopes the billboard design will adequately promote the town. Gray was not happy with the designs that were submitted.

“I would like to give council members a couple more choices of what I think would work better for Benson than what has been presented,” Gray said. “I just think if you’re going to spend the money, you need signs that will pay for themselves.” While Gray admits the billboard designs are attractive, he says they’re too difficult to read and don’t really show what Benson has to offer. “I’ve been working on this for a long time,” he said.  “We need to find the right location to display the billboard and we need to list the amenities that Benson has to offer so they can be read easily as cars are driving down the freeway.”

Gray has some ideas that he plans to present to the city council, designs he says will provide more effective advertising for the city. “My idea is to come up with an easy to read sign that lists key amenities that will promote the whole town,” he said.

Councilman Ron Brooks requested that Gray work with the group of people who are designing the billboard. After some discussion, it was decided that more of Benson’s exits, starting with exit 302, need to be listed, along with RV parks, golf, Walmart, and restaurants, to name a few of the ideas that were discussed.

Benson Mayor Toney King is concerned about listing Walmart, stating it could cause problems with other retail stores in town. However, Nilson, who works at the Benson Visitor Center, said when people call with inquires about Benson, one of the most frequently asked questions is whether the town has a Walmart.

Councilmember Nick Maldonado said there should be something about Benson as the “Gateway to Cochise County,” which differs from one of the current designs, which portrays Benson as “Gateway to the San Pedro Valley.”

The council tabled the project until the Nov. 5 board meeting. Meanwhile, the group will take the different ideas into consideration and come up with a new design based on the input, with the next round of ideas to be presented at the Oct. 29 council meeting.

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