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Newport council eyes electronic billboards as revenue source

The city of Newport is looking at electronic billboards as a new revenue source.

City Council members recently agreed to consider proposals from electronic billboard providers interested in erecting new signs on public property along highways in the city. In exchange for installing a billboard on city property, the billboard company would share its advertising revenue with the city.

Council member Tracy Rahm said the city is in "very preliminary discussions" about allowing electronic billboards. The council discussed the issue Jan. 17.

"It's worth pursuing," council member Tom Ingemann said.

John Bodger, a CBS Outdoor real estate manager, said Newport would be an attractive spot for electronic billboard advertisers.

"(Highway) 61 would be ideal," Bodger told the council, citing the traffic volume.

Bodger, whose company has six digital billboards in the Twin Cities area, said allowing a two-sided electronic billboard along Highway 61 could net city coffers $50,000 a year. That would assume the sign generated $200,000 in total advertising revenue and the city was contracted to receive 25 percent of the total revenue.

Newport's total city budget is $2.5 million.

A billboard company typically pays for post and sign installation. That can cost about $500,000, Bodger said.

Allowing the electronic signs would require changes to the city's ordinance. Its sign code limits billboards to 550 square feet. Bodger said CBS Outdoor digital signs need to be 672 square feet in order to project the digital image.

City officials planned to tour the area with Bodger as well as solicit input from other billboard companies before putting out a request for formal proposals. Initial work will involve identifying city-owned land suitable for billboards along Highway 61 or Interstate 494.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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