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New operator for Rohnert Park's digital sign

  • Rohnert Park's digital billboard displays its message to motorists on Highway 101. (PD file photo)

The Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday chose a longtime Sonoma County businessman's company to lease, replace and operate its Highway 101 digital advertising sign.

Veale Investment Properties, owned by Kirk Veale, offered to lease the 9-year-old sign for $180,000 a year plus 20 percent of annual net revenue over $900,000. It is also to make a one-time payment of $50,000 plus $5,000 a month during construction of a new sign.

The Santa Rosa-based outdoor advertising company has been in business in the county for 30 years, said Tom Jackson, its general manager.

"This is the logical next step to grow our business," Jackson said.

The sign now costs as much to operate and maintain as it brings in yearly, about $50,000, said Stewart John McArthur, the city's public works and community services director.

"That sign is rapidly becoming obsolete," McArthur said.

The Veale offer won out over one by Clear Channel Outdoors and a joint bid by Las Vegas-based Station Casinos and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who are building a 3,000-slot casino outside the city.

Councilman Amy Ahanotu asked if the city will have the ability to select the design of the new sign.

"There will be some discretion on the city's part," said City Manager Gabe Gonzalez.

The company and the city will now negotiate the lease's final terms, Gonzalez said, and the company must go through the normal permitting, design and planning process.

"We know at some point it's going to be give and take between the two of us," Jackson said.

The company has also agreed to give the city space to advertise its events and to partner in promoting local businesses.

"I see it as a huge economic gain," said Councilwoman Gina Belforte, "to get people off the highway . . . drive people into Rohnert Park."

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