Lori Sorensen, principal of Crystal Lake’s Bernotas Middle School at 170 N. Oak Street, took the advice of City Council members who told her to wait until Mayor Aaron Shepley was back in town before having the council vote on a proposal to put an electronic sign in the front of the school.
The sign needed the the support of five out of seven council members Tuesday to be approved. The supermajority was needed because of a negative recommendation by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Two members of the City Council, Carolyn Schofield and Brett Hopkins, voiced opposition to having an electronic sign on school property in a residential neighborhood.
“They are a distraction,” Schofield said. “You can’t text or talk on a cell phone in a school zone. But you would provide this distraction for parents driving by in cars?”
Hopkins said the sign was unnecessary because people would look at the school’s website to find out if it was a snow day, not drive up to read an electronic sign.
City Councilman Jeff Thorsen disagreed.
“This is not a watershed moment,” Thorsen said. “We’ve done this before.” Thorsen added that the sign could be use to communicate things such as amber alerts.
Thorsen said the city approved an electronic sign at Central High School and at the YMCA – both in residential neighborhoods.
Sorensen said there are four houses near the middle school. She dropped off information packets at three houses and talked to the fourth homeowner. None of the neighbors voiced disapproval, nor did they attend the City Council meeting Tuesday.
Sorensen said the electronic sign would be turned off by 9 p.m. The school would use privately raised funds, around $17,000, to pay for the sign.
Sorensen took the advice of Cathy Ferguson, mayor pro tem, who advised her to pull her petition and wait until the June 5 council meeting when the mayor would be back, because of the five-votes-needed-for-approval rule.