Mention the federal Department of Transportation, and Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan sees red and gets hot under the collar.
That pretty much describes Dunagan’s angst when he found out this week that federal DOT wants the recently dedicated Deshaun Watson Way street sign leading to Gainesville High taken down because the sign’s colors are non-compliant.
Watson, a Gainesville High star quarterback who led the Red Elephants to their only state championship, guided Clemson to the national college football title over Alabama in January. He’s expected to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft.
“What made me mad was for them to threaten withholding federal funds,” Dunagan told The Times Thursday. “That’s how the federal government works, unfortunately.”
The street sign has Deshaun Watson Way emblazoned on red to match the GHS school colors. The sign was dedicated Feb. 26 to cap the commemoration of the high school’s 125th anniversary.
Dunagan said the city learned of the federal communication by way of the Georgia DOT District 1 Office.
“This is a tiny little road that doesn’t bother anyone,” Dunagan said. “All they had to do was send us a note that we’re not in compliance. Instead, they just sent us a threatening letter.”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville issued a statement after seeing the federal DOT email noting that Gainesville’s new sign is not in compliance.
“The DOT’s decision to respond to a small city’s celebratory act by threatening to withdraw its federal funding is an egregious example of abuse at the hands of federal bureaucrats,” Collins said. “As many sections of our nation’s infrastructure are in disrepair, I am amazed that the DOT has prioritized targeting the entranceway of a local school.”
Dunagan said a second Deshaun Watson sign on school property would remain. As for the sign in dispute, the mayor said he’s going “to wait (to see) how this unfolds.”