So, about those peeling signs…

All around Asheville, wayfinding signs keep peeling, and a legal battle has ensued between the Tourism Development Authority and contractors who want more money to repair the tattered project. Meanwhile, the TDA has turned to other companies to fix the problem.

The signs — paid for with $1 million in hotel tax revenues, designed by West Chester, Pa.-based Merje design studio and installed by Reading, Pa.-based L&H Signs — began peeling shortly after they were finished. By the TDA’s count, about 30 of the signs were peelings; the TDA demanded they be fixed, and according to Phil Smith, an attorney with the Van Winkle law firm, the contractors wanted more money.

“The current situation is that they’re peeling,” Smith, now representing the TDA in their legal battle against the contractors, tells Xpress. “We submitted a demand to them to fix the signs, which were not as agreed in the contract. TDA’s not an expert in this field, they’re obviously dependent upon the designer and the fabricator to come up with the product they expected to get, and they obviously haven’t gotten it.”

When the TDA raised their objections, L&H “presented three options, each of which required the payment of additional money over and above what was originally in the contract,” Smith says. “The first two options didn’t even have a warranty with them.”

He added that TDA has refused to pay L&H $250,000 in remaining funds, something that the sign company believes it’s owed.

The result, Smith says, is that the TDA is looking for another fabricator to fix the problem.

“It will probably be a couple of weeks,” Smith says. “Hopefully, at that point we’ll be able to move ahead and get the signs corrected as quickly as possible.”

— David Forbes, senior reporter


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39 thoughts on “So, about those peeling signs…

  1. bobaloo

    It’s not only Asheville, it’s all over Buncombe (well, north Buncombe at least). In Weaverville the signs started peeling about three weeks ago. Having worked at Kinko’s (now FedEx office) in the past, I can tell you that even they could have produced higher quality signs.

    Was this a project paid for by funds from Asheville/Buncombe only or state funds?
    Whether it’s the state, county or city that initiated the project, it’s disgraceful that they didn’t go with, at the very least, a contractor based in NC.

  2. Piffy!

    Locally produced hand-carved wooden signs would have been cheaper and lasted longer, i suspect.

    who the hell signed this deal?

  3. Doug Sahm

    Absolutely unacceptable. If the people that make up the TDA have to get out there themselves and fix those signs, then so be it. You do what it takes to get the job done. This situation is a major embarrassment for the entire county and somebody within the TDA needs to be held accountable at this point. This should have been fixed yesterday.

  4. Warranty means you fix it. Not we pay more for you to fix it. These things didn’t last a single season. I’m not even sure if fixing them is the optimal course. I say we ditch them, sue the company for producing shoddy goods and get better signs from elsewhere. Fixing them won’t do a bit of good if the fixes just peel off again in a few months, and clearly this company doesn’t have their materials act together.

  5. propagate.eustress

    Bobaloo, that was exactly my thought. I am positive that there are local options that could have produced a higher quality product. They probably would have been less expensive also. Not to mention the boost to the local economy it would have been. Isn’t that what Asheville likes to say it’s all about?

  6. missemmalee

    I charge $15 an hour for this, MX, look for my bill – mad Google skills
    BCTDA Mission:
    To be a leader in the economic development of Buncombe County by attracting and servicing visitors, generating income, jobs and tax revenues which make the community a better place to live and visit.

    The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority is a nine-member board appointed by the City, the County and the Chamber. Seven are voting members with four out of the seven members required to represent lodging properties. Two of the members are non-voting, ex-officios from City Council and County Commission. Current board members are listed below.

    Mr. Eric Scheffer, Chairman

    Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian Restaurant & Dining Innovations

    641 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804

    City Appointment – Tourism Related

    Mr. Ron Morin, Vice Chairman

    The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa

    290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804

    County Appointment – Lodging 100+ Rooms

    Mr. Brad Brasher

    Bella Luna Inn

    99 Terry Estate Drive, Black Mountain, NC 28711

    County Appointment – Lodging -100 Rooms

    Ms. Julie Hanser

    The Biltmore Company

    One N. Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801

    Chamber Appointment – Tourism Related

    Mr. Bob Patel

    Bhuna Corporation/Quality Inn & Suites

    1430 Tunnel Road, Asheville, NC 28805

    City Appointment – Lodging 100+ Rooms

    Mr. Ron Storto

    Biltmore Farms, Inc.

    PO Box 5355, Asheville, NC 28813

    City Appointment – Lodging -100 Rooms

    Ms. Paige Wheeler

    The Health Adventure

    PO Box 180, Asheville, NC 28802

    County Appointment – Tourism Related

    Asheville City Council Ex-Officio Member

    Councilman Jan Davis

    Buncombe County Commission Ex-Officio Member

    Commissioner K. Ray Bailey

  7. mgarren

    I can’t figure out why these signs were necessary in the first place when there are already plenty of state ‘regulatory’ signs everywhere. What a massive waste of time and resources! I saw these signs first in and around Biltmore and all I could think was, “that’s redundant, we already have signs everywhere!”.

    We can’t hire more full-time teachers but we can waste massive local funds on this crap.

  8. Clark
  9. Katie

    With the throng of blindingly brilliant artists, craftspeople, and construction professionals in Asheville/Buncombe Co., I, too, cannot fathom why an outside company was employed to do this project. Certainly the resounding slap in the face continues to echo throughout the mountains.

  10. ‘The Partnership on Wayfinding (POW) Task Force was formed to oversee development of the project. POW is comprised of representatives from the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, City of Asheville, Asheville Downtown Association, NC Department of Transportation, Asheville Regional Airport, and the towns of Black Mountain, Weaverville, Montreat and the Asheville Regional Airport.

    The Task Force contracted with the architectural firm MERJE in Philadelphia, PA to assist with the master plan and design elements. Following a bid process, L& H Companies in Reading, PA was chosen for fabrication and installation. Mattern & Craig, a local engineering firm provides construction oversight.”

    We need to show up at some Board Meetings and express our displeasure at such an embarrassing debacle. On several occasions I’ve read that TDA is separate from our City /County government…but ll these Board members are city, county appointments, with one appointed by the Chamber. The Board TDA is essentially a quasi-governmental branch of local officials.

  11. anomaly

    I created a log-in just so I could reply to this post.

    I thought the signs were lovely and though they seemed a tad redundant in a few places, I figured they were for the tourists and I love the words on the backs.

    I am APPALLED that so many signs didn’t even make it though one season!

    Yes it is embarrassing for us all but surely no decent company will let this reflect on their work. I can only hope the TDA POW committee entered into this contract this “decent companies.” I am sure the POW worked hard to get this project together – but unfortunately I think their work has only just begun.

    I hope they see this post and the responses. I have been meaning to write an editorial about it. Good for Mtn Ex. for posting something about it – I was wondering where the outpour of outrage over such shoddy work was….

    BTW, what’s the deal with the “Asheville” sign post thing I see as I exit 240 at Merrimon? Is it finished? It looks like a tribute our local coal burning power plant. If it’s done, I wish they’d take down the caution tape.

  12. Arnie

    I agree with the post about giving feedback on google – please click the links that the previous poster provided and leave feedback. Also, I think the TDA did a horrible job and I was surprised that they did not use local artists. But I think to remedy this, they all have to get off their butts and get these companies to fix the signs. It is the TDA’s responsibility. I personally am furious that we got new signs anyway, but the poor quality really steams me up!

  13. Josh Benson

    I agree with many of the other posters that it’s absolutely inexcusable that a local company and/or artist was not employed to do this job. It almost certainly would have been cheaper, would have looked better and lasted longer, would have put money into the local economy, and would have been far easier to fix had there been a problem. The TDA should be ashamed of itself for not even considering local options for this job.

  14. Susanne Hackett

    Phillip, good idea. I sent them an email asking them to do the right thing.

    Also, to add a little pressure, we could create signs to attach to the peeling signs saying: “Made by with pride by L & H Signs” and send them photos of them around town.

  15. dave

    It blows my mind that we could not hav egone with a local company, or companies to handle this job. Likely it would have cost less, with better quality, and local style warranty treatment. This is absolutely absurd, 100% shameful. Makes no sense at all. Whoever was responsible for this totally let us down by not going local. Completely unexcusable. I would really like to know who made this decision, so that I can make sure and not vote for this person.

  16. It is absolutely bind boggeling, that in this time of high competition for jobs that it appears the people intrusted with the public good are seemingly incompetant, at the least. I realize these folks are not actual city officials or employees. But they are on a Board that oversees the financial best interests of this community. How does this (yet another) example of gross incompetance or worse, not instill more distrust. We’ve had the human resources revelations, and the sexual harrassment, now this???? Who the hell is running this town. And can’t we do better?????

  17. So many people have jumped to conclusions. Was this a bad design decision on materials? Were the materials manufactured to specifications? Was the installation done to specification?
    Since this is now involved with a law suit, expect no answers for 5 years.

  18. Mel

    I agree with a lot of comments above, though I liked most of the signs in the beginning…and that they’re for tourists – paid by tourists. I am now wondering why the peeling signs are still up though?!? Leave the poles for the fixed/new signs, whatever, but take down the ugly peeling signs while a resolution is being worked out or new signs are being made. Leaving them up in the state that most are in gives a much worse impression to a visitor than no sign at all. They all went up very quickly, take them down quickly too!

  19. Use the remaining $250,000 to have someone local print up replacement signs that last more than a few weeks, and bolt the replacements over the hot peeling mess.

  20. bobaloo

    Was this a bad design decision on materials? Were the materials manufactured to specifications? Was the installation done to specification?

    Anyone that has the most rudimentary experience with producing signs can answer these questions:

    Yes, no, and no.

    If one positive result comes of this it is, without a doubt, the TDA is completely incompetent.

  21. puppet of socks

    To the best of my knowledge, the TDA is only a rubber stamp board okaying the decisions of the CVB. If you would like to point fingers, point them there. This entire project – which was over five years in the making; I attended more meetings than I care to remember – was set up by the CVB to begin with. While you’re asking why local vendors were not used, I suggest you also ask why the Chamber and the CVB use so very, very few local people for anything. All their design, from print to web to TV ads, is done by people who are not only not local, they’re not even in NC. Yes, there are lots and lots of local people with amazing skills in Asheville, from web design to video production to graphic design to SEO. These are all things the CVB and the Chamber contract out – way out. They spend a LOT of money on it all and it’s not being done here.

  22. Matt Mercy

    The fact that they didn’t primarily use a local vendor is a bit suspicious. I am not making accusations, as I have no evidence, but is anyone investigating possible “inappropriate” business relationships between L&H and CVB members?

  23. Just Me

    These boards probably choose non-local vendors for the same reason as other businesses- they were the cheapest.

    But you get what you pay for…

  24. AspenFest

    To the question as why a local company was not used for the fabrication of these signs, the answer is simple. No local companies submitted a bid. NC public bidding laws were used, but no local company submitted a bid. You can’t select a local company if they don’t bid.

    As to the use of local artists, the finials on the top of the signs were all designed by local artists who were paid for their services.

    Yes, in their current state the signs are an embarrassment – but unfortunately as this had now been turned over to the attorneys the signs need to remain as they are until a resolution is reached.

    Finally, as to the redundancy of some signs – the original idea is that once the new signage system was in place, the older signs would be removed. However, since this is now in litigation, the old signs will not be removed until there is resolution has been reached.

  25. So Aspenfest, who are you a sock puppet or shill for, CVB, the Chamber, or TDA??????

    You’re coming up with too many excuses.

  26. AspenFest

    It’s interesting when facts and basic information is called an excuse. Rather than spout uninformed opinions – as others have – I felt it important to use some readily found information that was being ignored. Saying the reason that a local company was not selected was because none submitted a bid is not an excuse, it is a simple statement of fact. I would suggest going to – and scroll down to the section on FAQ regarding the Wayfinding Program and read it.

    So perhaps what you’re trying to say is

    “You’re coming up with too many facts.”

  27. mgarren

    “Finally, as to the redundancy of some signs – the original idea is that once the new signage system was in place”

    This is exactly what I meant in my original comment…. The new signs were completely unnecessary and a huge waste of resources. Just to try to make it all look prettier than a standard regulatory sign… It is idiotic.

  28. AspenFest

    If the majority of signs were redundant and of a similar design, I would agree, but they are not. Prior to this project, Wayfinding signage was inadequate and inconsistent. Having a unified design makes the signage easier to find and use by the traveler unfamiliar with the area, and not just the tourist but perhaps the person looking to find an area college or medical facility.

    The entire design is not redundant with existing signage, which was a hodge-podge and not county wide. When the peeling problem is fixed and the old-redundant signs are removed, you will end up with a far more efficient system that is effective in directing visitor to and promoting this area’s assets.

  29. mtnmchgrl

    I personally thought the signs were GREAT. I totally disagree that they were redundant. I thought they were quite helpful. I wish they’d been in place when I first moved here. I do concur that a local company or artist should have probably been used. I don’t know what the contract entailed but SURELY they did not sign off on something that did not include A WARRANTY? I don’t even understand how this is even a discussion? The PA based company should be required to fix them. They look AWFUL.

  30. contentpersephone

    so here we are in October, and the signs are still up…still looking awful.

    I noticed that the one near the Biltmore got repaired….wonder if they just paid someone local to do it over, rather that waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

  31. Edward

    This whole thing is a little rediculous- do some research. The TDA dropped the ball and now are trying to get these chaps from PA to foot the bill because they tried to cut corners. I had to look at these signs everyday and they are a monument to the way our local gov’t is doing business. Makes us look a little foolish.

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