The company making 91 large directional signs for Lexington said it is not to blame for failing to deliver the signs before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Comments Tuesday by Neal Ramsay of Architectural Graphics contradicted a city official who said this week the signs would not be installed before the Games because of manufacturing errors by the company.
The Games open Saturday.
"The crux of the problem was we couldn't lay concrete foundations in a lot of places where the city wanted signs because there were underground utilities," Ramsay said. "Some signs have had to be relocated two or three times to get clearance from utility companies. That's where we lost a lot of time."
The company, based in Virginia Beach, Va., will ship 21 signs Tuesday, and they should arrive Wednesday, Neal said.
Installation by a local subcontractor, Arrow Electric, will begin immediately. It will take four to five days to get the signs in place.
When told of Ramsay's explanation, Mike Webb, commissioner of public works, did not back down from his statement that a manufacturing defect precipitated the delay. On Monday night, "when I spoke to the manufacturer, he said, 'We've had this issue with the welding,'" Webb said.
The signs were "relatively expensive," Webb said, adding, "We didn't want to accept signs with a major flaw."
Lexington's Urban County Council approved a $1 million bond to pay for installation and maintenance of 91 signs, many of them downtown, and to buy more later. The signs, measuring 4 feet by 6 feet and 6 feet by 9 feet, will give directions to such attractions as Rupp Arena, the Headley-Whitney Museum and Keene land. Each sign will feature a bright blue likeness of the stallion Lexington on it.
Without problems with utility lines, foundations would be in place for some key locations, Webb said, "But that did not slow down the manufacture of the signs any. It did limit how many of the foundations we could get in."
However, Ramsay said that when utility companies kept rejecting sites for the signs, "We shifted our focus to signs and locations we could get done, which was actually the second phase of the project. We had to bring fabrication of those signs forward, put fabrication of the other ones off, which we had already begun building, because we wanted to keep working."
When told a city official said the delay in delivering the signs was due to a fabrication problem, Neal said, "I don't know why they would have portrayed it that way."
Councilman Tom Blues asked during a council work session Tuesday when all 91 signs would be in place. Kevin Wente, the city's manager for the program, said it probably would be December.
Tourism leaders and others expressed chagrin that the signs would not be in place for the Games. "It would have been nice for visitors coming to town to have them," said David Lord, president of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Renee Jackson, president of Downtown Lexington Corp., said: "Obviously, I'm disappointed. Will visitors notice? I'm sure they will just stop to ask directions." But the signs would have been a "wonderful addition" and made it easier for cars and pedestrians to find their way around, she said.
The issue took a political turn at the work session when Vice Mayor Jim Gray, looking to unseat Mayor Jim Newberry in November, said, "Projects take on importance that the leadership encourages."
"Clearly, the mayor and his administration did not view this as a priority," Gray said after the meeting. "And it was all planned to get done by the World Games. That was the purpose."
Lance Blanford, Newberry's campaign manager, dismissed the criticism.
"Downtown Lexington looks better than ever," Blanford said. "We have new sidewalks, cultural facilities, new roads. Vice Mayor Gray is desperate to find something to criticize because that's all he knows how to do."
Council member Kevin Stinnett said there was plenty of blame to go around.
"If council really wanted this done and guaranteed before WEG, we should have sold the bonds two years ago," he said. "Instead, council approved borrowing the last $600,000 for the project at the end of last year."