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    Virginia Signage Fees Rising

    State association urges retailers to fight back.

    An increase in signage fees has retailers in Virginia outraged, prompting the Virginia Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association to urge store owners to fight back.

    According to Mike O'Connor, president of the Richmond, Va.-based association, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) task force has been examining Virginia?s logo signage program. The group is looking at how convenience store retailers are advertising store brands and prices price banners, canopy fronts and sides and other outdoor promotional materials.

    The task force was formed because the contract with the program administrator, currently an independent auditor, expires Sept. 1. A recommendation has been forwarded to give the DOT authority of the program to maximize revenue. If that happens, wholesale changes could be in store for retailers, O'Connor warned.
    ?During the first two meetings of the task force, we had to fight off renewed attempts by the restaurant industry to give preferential treatment to so-called 'full service' restaurants,? he said. This means c-store store operators could be the target of DOT scrutiny.

    According to O'Connor, the DOT staff has been instructed to develop a plan to be presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board on August 16 that includes the following:
    * Increase annual sign fees from $375 to $765, an amount that VDOT says will cover their cost of program administration.
    * Those who are eligible to be on the signs will be able to enter into a three-year contract, during which time they cannot be bumped. Those who opt for multi-year contracts will be eligible to take an early payment discount.

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