HOOPER, Neb. — A year ago, Hooper area residents beamed with pride to watch native Jordan Larson compete for the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the London Olympics.
A group of local supporters worked with Duane Svec Advertising to create a vinyl sign noting Hooper as the Olympian’s hometown. The sign was put up in July 2012 next to Hooper’s obelisk on city-owned land leading into town.
Jan and Larry Ranslem, Judy Larsen and Tim Mallette bought the sign for $250, and it drew a positive local response.
“I just felt on the entrance to town we needed to have something that said we were proud she was from here and local girl makes good,” Jan Ranslem said. “I think the whole town got behind her.”
But the sign was removed by the Nebraska Department of Roads this summer because it was erected with a permit on a highway right of way.
Jason Hansen, the roads department maintenance superintendent at the Fremont office, said his office was directed to remove the sign before July 4.
Ranslem, who also is president of Hooper Commercial Club, said she and others spoke with Hooper City Clerk Roxanne Meyer last year before installing the sign because it was being placed on city land.
Ranslem said Meyer told her they needed to check the right-of-way setback distances, and the group thought it had done so.
Mary Jo Oie, roads department communications director, said the Fremont maintenance office received a complaint about the improper sign, leading to its removal. Oie could not provide information on setback distance guidelines for rights of way, saying they differ with each location and the department must determine the clear zones.
“We constantly remind people to check with the highway department,” she said. “Anything that’s within the clear zone from a road can be very dangerous. We’re just trying to keep the right of way safe.”
Ranslem retrieved the wind-damaged banners from the roads department. Because of the damage, the commercial club decided to have a similar sign made to be displayed at a location still to be determined.
Jean Todd, roads department highway beautification supervisor for the Right of Way Division, said via email that the city must apply for an advertising permit to the department’s Highway Beautification Section, provide the sign’s message and ensure that the sign is placed within the city’s territorial jurisdiction.
Ranslem said she plans to speak to the Hooper City Council at its Sept. 10 meeting to get input on how to proceed.
Mayor Bruce Cate said he told Ranslem a secondary site could involve city-owned right of way on the west side of Main Street at Old Highway 275 across from the city’s new electronic sign.
But Ranslem favors the sign’s original site along Highway 275 because of greater visibility.
Cate said he supported having the city apply for the permit to have the sign erected because of Larson’s connection to Hooper.
“Not very many people ever have the opportunity to go the Olympics, let alone have someone from your town represent the United States,” he said.