It could well be a cornerstone of community information. The sign in question is at the Bank of America at the corner of U.S.1 and Sombrero Beach Road. It regularly posts messages about festivals, sporting events, traffic information and events for charity.
According to Randy Mearns of Marathon Electric Sign and Light, the sign might be coming down because of a message that a visitor found objectionable. In a June 9 email to Marathon Mayor Michelle Coldiron and City Manager Chuck Lindsey, Mearns wrote: “About three weeks ago, we had a message on the sign that read ‘Don’t be a skeeter breeder.’ Some tourist took offense to the message, took a picture and sent it to Bank of America where it quickly went up the ranks to corporate execs who were not happy.” The skeeter breeder reference is a public service announcement about quelling the surge of the aedes aegypti mosquito during the rainy season by taking precautions around the home.
Mearns said the sign has been there for more than 40 years, and survived not only Hurricane Irma but five different banks as well. An employee from his company is responsible for putting up the messages every week.
“About 20 years ago, Marine Bank started letting the community put messages on the signs. But what was happening was people were parking their cars at the busy corner and standing on their hoods to put up the letters,” Mearns laughed. “So the bank hired us to put up the messages instead. I think they paid us like $10 a week at the beginning.”
Mearns has done it for free for years, and it just evolved into one of his community responsibilities.
“Every not-for-profit uses this sign to advertise events — for festival of Christmas trees, taste of the islands, church announcements. That was the very first sign to get put back together after the hurricane. It’s where we know to look for community news,” said Coldiron.
According to the City of Marathon, the bank has applied for a permit for a new sign that does not include a reader board. Deputy City Manager George Garrett said city officials have reached out to the property managers to discuss options.