Ten in-your-face interstate billboards in Indianapolis that were subjects of an 8-year-old lawsuit over their legality finally will be torn down.
And the city itself may end up doing the honors because the billboard company that erected the signs has gone out of business.
“Those signs are going to come down very shortly,” Chris Cotterill, the city’s corporate counsel, said Friday.An agreement between the city and billboard owner Pinnacle Media, filed Friday in the environmental division of Marion Superior Court, gives the city the right to remove the large, free-standing signs, which sit on steel poles with the girth of century oaks.
The city sought the right to remove the signs on its own because Pinnacle hadn’t done it, despite being ordered by the court last fall to remove them, Cotterill said.
Pinnacle did remove the advertising displayed on the signs. The signs went blank in late November, said Pinnacle’s attorney, Alan S. Townsend.
But he said Pinnacle doesn’t have the money to take down the huge signs. Each costs an estimated $10,000 to tear down, Cotterill said. Pinnacle went out of business in part because of the city’s lawsuit that led to it losing the 10 choicely located billboards and the revenue they generate, Townsend said.
Losing the lawsuit was “one of the causes for them to no longer be in business,” he said.
Pinnacle had been based in Indianapolis. It now has no office or employees, Townsend said. Its managing partner who signed the agreement filed Friday with the city is Randy Chirico, who Townsend said is an Illinois businessman.
Pinnacle had contracted with another billboard company to sell advertising on the signs and maintain them, Townsend said. He said he couldn’t comment on what happened to the ad revenue Pinnacle stood to collect from the signs during the 11 months last year that they were rented.
The agreement gives the city the right to bill Pinnacle for the cost of tearing down the signs.
But Pinnacle doesn’t have the money to pay for the tear-down, so “we’re working with the city … to find a buyer for the signs” that will be allowed to keep the signs if it removes them, Townsend said.
Cotterill said, “We’re looking to find a no-cost option to remove them … so the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay $1.”
He said Mayor Greg Ballard, who took office this month, ordered the city’s legal staff to push Pinnacle to remove the billboards. “He took a keen interest in this,” Cotterill said . . .
“We are certainly disappointed with the result” of the lawsuit, Townsend
said. “Pinnacle handled every aspect of building and constructing these signs in
the right way.”
Norm Pace of the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, which
had fought to get the billboards removed because it deems them unsightly, said
the impending tear-down is grounds for celebration.
“We will be there to toast with a glass of milk these signs coming down,”
As Advance Indiana previously reported, two out-of-state billboard companies have offered to remove the signs free of charge to the City as long as they are permitted to retain ownership of the signage materials. Pinnacle's suggestion that it had no resources to get the job done simply rings hollow to those who have been fighting for their removal all these years. Pinnacle sold its assets to Lamar in 2004 for over $10 million, but Pinnacle retained ownership of the disputed Indianapolis signs while the company continued to fight it out with the City over their legality. Persons close to the dispute say Pinnacle contracted with Lamar to maintain the signs and sell advertising following the sale.