Illegal bench billboards irk community leaders

INDIANAPOLIS -- Community leaders are concerned about illegal benches popping up on the city’s west side.

“It’s getting worse,” said Wayne Township Trustee Andy Harris. “Neighbors are complaining and neighborhood groups are complaining. They’re an eyesore.”

Harris said companies place the billboard benches in the city right of way without a permit.

“They’re physically placing the benches in the hopes of advertising,” said Harris. “The city is not collecting any revenue off of this.”

Harris said the benches are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they attract trash.

City County Councilor Janice McHenry, who represents parts of Wayne and Pike townships, has contacted the city with lists of benches and their locations.

“They are illegal, they don’t have permits, and they do not have permission to put them out,” said McHenry.  “They are not safely placed.  It could tip very easily.”

McHenry pointed out that many of the benches are located very close to traffic and busy intersections.

“Someone could get hit,” said McHenry.  “We don’t want to see people injured because they’re sitting on a bench.”

Tim Lord, a longtime Pike Township resident and board member of the Pike Township Residents Association, has been snapping pictures of the benches and submitting complaints to the city.

“The city doesn’t follow through on it,” said Lord. “They kind of, in my opinion, pass the buck. I want to see someone take charge of this.”

Call 6 Investigates did some checking and learned the city’s Department of Business and Neighborhood Services, formerly known as code enforcement, has not cited any of the companies responsible for the benches.

“No we do not plan to cite them,” said Dimitri Kyser, spokesperson for BNS. “Typically when we contact these companies they deny placing the signs or say that someone else put them there, so for us we need to catch them in the act which almost never happens."

Call 6 Investigates reached out to some of the phone numbers listed on the signs, including Mini Billboards, however we were not able to reach anyone.

Harris and McHenry said they’ve had no luck getting a response either.

Both said businesses that do advertise on benches are likely unaware the signs are illegally placed.

Many of the benches are located at bus stops that would not otherwise have a place to sit.

“If they are going to be here, they need to be here properly,” said Harris.

Harris pointed out many IndyGo bus stops offer benches, shelter and trash cans.

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for removing the benches.

“DPW has not yet received work orders or clearance to remove the benches,” said DPW spokesperson Betsy Whitmore. “Given the number of benches on the councillor’s list, it may take some time for (the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services) to do its due diligence to contact anyone who may own the benches.”

Call 6 Investigates was unable to reach IndyGo for comment Tuesday.

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