MDOT regulations force decision between dulcimers, Evart track team

EVART — The question of whether to recognize the Dulcimer Funfest or the Evart track team and its state championship titles went unanswered at Monday's Evart City Council meeting.

Sign regulations from the Michigan Department of Transportation have put city council members in the position of deciding who gets placement under the green city limits signs.

City Manager Zack Szakacs told the council it would soon have to make a decision on whether to keep the existing signs along U.S. 10 under the city limit signs that proclaim Evart as "home of the Dulcimer Funfest," or replace the signs with new ones to recognize the Evart track team's two championships.

Because MDOT controls the right of way along U.S. 10, it regulates which signs can go up and where. MDOT will not allow the dulcimer and track signs both to be under the city limit signs.

"MDOT would make and install the track team signs, so it could not be purchased and placed somewhere else," Szakacs said. "There's no other spot. And if they put it up, they will take the dulcimer signs down."

City Attorney Jim White explained other towns with multiple signs don't have to follow the same regulations because they do not have state highways running through them.

"I get the impression that everybody wants us to do it like other communities do it," Szakacs said. "They want signs along our U.S. 10 corridor. The problem is that we don't run that."

Only signs for city-sponsored events can be placed on city property, creating another challenge for council members when determining sign placement.

Director of Public Works Buck Vallad said a call from a senator to MDOT to ask for an exemption should be considered as the next step, but Szakacs explained that had already been done.

Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, has called and his request was refused by MDOT, apparently citing a conflict because Booher's grandson was on the track team.

"Well, do we want to promote our youth or the dulcimers, which 95 percent of them come from out of town?" Vallad asked. "I guess that's what the question is."

A motion with support was put forth recommending the purchase of the track signs, splitting the cost with the school, and having MDOT install the new signs, but both were later rescinded after Mayor Eric Schmidt encouraged Szakacs to contact the dulcimer organization before a decision is made.

“They may not even care,” Schmidt said. “They probably will, but I just think it’s wrong to bring this to the table without talking to them about it first.”

Different suggestions, such as making banners or shrinking the lettering of the signs are being looked into, and the issue will be further discussed at the council's June 17 meeting.