A spirited discussion about the future of the I-Sign electronic kiosk on the corner of High St. and Cross St. was held during Monday’s town council meeting.
The sign, originally a project of the Downtown Chestertown Association, was initiated in 2010, installed in June 2011, and experienced multiple problems that summer, including unreadability due to glare, fogging, and touch-screen sensitivity issues.
The DCA and the Kent County Department of Tourism partnered to fund the electronic kiosk in 2011 and received a $15,385 grant from Maryland’s Scenic Byways Program, and given a $3,558 in-kind match from the town. The town acted as a pass-through entity for the grant. The Historic District Commission approved the kiosk design in March of 2011.
The sign experienced ongoing issues and has not been operational since 2013.
The council agreed that another location should be selected if the sign is to be reactivated with a new service provider. Suggestions ranged from the Visitors Center to the breezeway in the Alexander Building on High St. if that is actually a viable, permissible option. Council members had issues with the fact that if the sign were to be placed inside the Visitors Center, access would be inhibited by the building’s hours of operation.
Research by DCA members into a new service provider found Four Winds Interactive as a possible choice. Their purchase, software and installation charge is listed as $3,205 (a one-time fee) and $1,348 annually for maintenance.
Councilman Sam Shoge said that he would like to see a different approach taken to interacting with tourists—through interactive mobile media— and that costs similar to reactivating the sign could be used to develop an app for smartphones and iPads.
Mayor Cerino said that he had spoken to Kent County Office of Tourism Director Bernadette Bowman and that she felt the sign still offered informational and marketing value to visitors. He added that he would invite the tourism director to the next meeting.
Councilwoman Linda Kuiper asked the mayor if he had heard anything about a possible lawsuit against the sign. Cerino acknowledged with “I absolutely have, and I have to tell you that if someone were to push that, I do believe the sign, technically, by the letter of our ordinance, would be illegal. That, to me, would be another reason to put it inside.”
DCA Vice-President Barbara Jorgenson spoke to the issue by saying “This (kiosk) speaks to the visitor the way we have control over it. It’s a digital information kiosk that can offer a “wayfinder” function that will interact with your smartphone and tell you how to get to places in the downtown area. This is not yesterday’s technology. It’s today’s. Don’t throw the baby out just because we have it in the wrong location.”
Jorgenson added that DCA was not looking to the council as a sole funding source for reactivating and maintaining the sign. If the sign is continued, some members of the DCA would like to work with funding partners including the county and town. It was also indicated that the DCA did not have a concerted opinion about the future of the sign and that they were still in discussions.
By a 4-1 vote, the council voted to move the sign to a yet to be designated area and also agreed to invite Four Winds Interactive to give a presentation to the Council as well as Tourism Director Bernadette Bowman to further discuss the matter.