Gateway "Welcome" project, over budget, still moves forward

The Gateway ‘Welcome’ project is $108,395 over budget estimates, but it still is moving forward.

Construction could begin as early as September for the two signs on both sides of S.R. 203 after the Town Council Wednesday evening approved more public art funds to the project.

Those funds are earmarked and not a part of the general fund, the council emphasized in explaining the move, although that did not mollify the concerns of Councilmember Joe Bacon.

Bacon, noting that the Gateway project is now into its 20th month of development discussion, nevertheless has taken less time than the proper installation of The Big Fish at the airport.

The fish, an artified trout, was to be installed as a public arts project months ago, but has been treading water, so to speak, while council members and outside interests wrangle over the Gateway signs.

On Wednesday, the signs won, the trout lost, and the project sailed forward.

The total cost of the Gateway project, the inspiration of planning commissioner Elizabeth Tenney, now stands at $671,394. The funding breakdown is part donated services ($232,000), private donations ($81,000), and a previous Public Art Fund allocation of $250,000.

(The Public Arts Commission, now disbanded, decided the sign did not qualify as “art.” The commissioners resigned en masse and the commission itself evaporated.)

With $108,394 moved to the Gateway project, that leaves the Public art Fund at a balance of $123,310 for other art projects.

Presumably, that would include the Big Trout, but that fish is lying low, in still, murky waters.