PARKERSBURG - Labeling it a slow death, Mayor Bob Newell said the prolonged issue surrounding the billboards in front of the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority parking garage is dead.
"We won't hear any more about the billboards," he said.
The two billboards - a source of political controversy for more than five years- came down Tuesday morning as PBM Outdoor Advertising's lease with the city expired.
Workers take down billboard
"This is the end of an argument that was under a different city council," Newell said.
The two billboards had been a bone of contention since 2004 when former Mayor Jimmy Colombo approved the billboards as replacements for ones removed during construction on the parking garage on Juliana Street near Fifth Street.
After the structure was erected, the billboards were found to be in violation of city code but were allowed to remain because a lease between PBM and the property owner had already been established.
A workman stands on a walkway while taking down the billboard.
In December 2004, the property was transferred to the city, along with the lease agreement with the intent of allowing the lease agreement to expire.
The city took over the lease for five years with a five-year option that should have expired last year. However, PBM was able to extend its lease an additional year after it was discovered the city had inadvertently cashed a check for the option.
Threatening legal action, city officials made an agreement with the company to remove the billboards by the end of August 2010.
Newell said PBM was a "victim of circumstance."
"It got caught up in all the political angling and now at their own expense they have to take it down," he said. "PBM is a customer of the city. They are a taxpaying business throughout the city and that is lost revenue for the city."
The city collects $1,200 annually for the billboard.
At last month's Board of Zoning Appeals meeting the company sought to erect two other billboards at 701 Juliana St. The board declined to take action.
"As slow as the issue has been, I assume it is dead," Newell said.