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Oakwoods Exit 17 sign under repair
Structure blown down during Dec. windstorm
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The Oakwood welcome sign was due for a change anyway but not one that involved rebuilding the entire structure.

A windstorm blew down the structure on Dec. 20, just weeks before one of its co-sponsors — Gainesville State College — was to become the University of North Georgia as part of a merger with North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

The college, along with Oakwood and a third sponsor, Lanier Technical College, had plans to update the sign at some point to reflect the name change.

“We were in the process of working with the college on changing out the Gainesville State portion,” City Manager Stan Brown said.

The new name will go up “when the new sign goes up,” he added.

Brown said, however, that he didn’t know when the sign would be back in its spot off Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway at Thurmon Tanner Parkway, or at Interstate 985’s Exit 17.

The contractor, DeNyse Cos. of Douglasville, is rebuilding the structure at an off-site workshop — same as it did when it built the original version.

“The contractor is stepping up to the plate to deal with it,” Brown said.

“I think (the company) recognizes — and I feel the same — there was probably some faulty installation with the way it was anchored,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have that problem when (the sign) is repaired and reinstalled. I think that issue will not be there.”

The sign, which had been up since early fall, also featured an electronic message board, which wasn’t damaged and doesn’t need repair, Brown said.

The city and colleges joined in the sign effort as a way not only to greet visitors as they came off I-985 but also to advertise happenings, events and other key information related to the city and the colleges.

Gainesville State and Lanier Tech split the $75,000 cost for the sign. The city paid for engineering, permitting and electrical work.

At the time the sign fell, the National Weather Service in Peachtree City reported that peak wind gusts reached 47 mph that evening. The NWS automated recording station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville recorded gusts of 36 mph.

As far as liability, Brown isn’t expecting any costs to fall back on the city.

“I’m looking at it as it’s (the contractor’s) responsibility to make sure the sign performs properly,” he said.

The city might add some lighting at the sign once it’s reinstalled.

“We may have some costs associated with modifications, based on lessons learned, but I’m not anticipating a budget impact,” Brown said.

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