Clark's Time-Temp Story
Once upon a time, when CLARK’S TRUCK CENTER was known as UNDERHILL GARAGE and located where Underhill Automotive is now on Route 15 by the park, they had an eighteen inch clock, which was lit at night, that people could see when they drove by. When the Clark’s decided in 1986 to relocate their business, which was established by Elwood Clark in 1927, to the corner of Route 15 and Brown’s Trace Wilma Clark then the owner asked that the clock be put on the new building because she said, “it is important that people know what time it is”. Her son, Randy, explained that the new building being set back from the road that no one would be able to see the eighteen inch clock and he suggested they purchase a Time-Temperature Sign. Wilma did not know what a Time-Temperature Sign was because at the age of 79, she did not get out much. Randy explained that on a very hot day in Burlington, the Burlington Free Press would have a picture in the paper of a Time-Temperature Sign showing 100 or 101 degrees! Wilma replied that she had seen that picture and it was on the Burlington Savings Bank. She also said, “I will buy one of those TT signs and put it up in memory of your father”, which she did and there is a bronze plaque on the side of the post, so stating that.
The Time-Temperature was erected in August of 1986 and was a mechanical type sign, where the Time would flash up for 6 seconds and then the Temperature would flash up for 6 seconds and it continued to do that for twenty two and one half years. I am sure many of you noticed in its last year of operation that some winter days it would indicate 67 degrees…however it was actually 17 degrees (most of us wished it was 67!!!!). In the twenty two and one half years of flip Time, flip Temperature it actually flipped over 114 million times (114,000,000) so naturally it wore out. Randy spent a year looking for replacement parts and also at complete replacements as the Time-Temperature had become an icon for many people. The mechanical signs are now outdated and have been replaced by LED (light emitting diode) he was told time and again by various sign companies. Randy’s standard answer was, “well that maybe alright for some places but I do not think Jericho, Vermont is ready for LED!” Then the same reliable company that had sold the Clark’s their first TT suggested he go to the local authorities and explain the benefits of an LED Time-Temp combined Message Board. “You can have Amber Alerts, Meeting Announcements, Public Announcements, as well as Advertising for your business,” said the sales agent.
January 5, 2009, Randy went to the Jericho Town Offices and inquired with the Zoning Administrator about replacing Clark’s TT with a new LED Time Temp. The Administrator advised Randy that LED was not a form of light recognized by the present Jericho Zoning Regulations and that it would take years to get the regulations changed. However, he suggested that Randy attend the next Development Review Board Meeting as they were in the process of rewriting the Sub Division Regulations and perhaps they could add in the LED at the same time. When Randy asked what kind of a presentation to prepare, his remark was that Randy did not need a presentation…just show up at the meeting.
January 6, 2009, Randy showed up unannounced at the Jericho Planning Commission's monthly meeting. Randy says, “the way they looked at me was, you would have thought I was Sponge Bob Square Pants!” Of course all their meetings are public, but no one ever shows up, unless of course they want something. Randy proceeded to explain about the Time Temperature as written above and a couple of the members started to warm up to the idea and then the Chairman says, “We do not have time tonight to redo the sign regulations, we have been working on these Sub Division Regulations for two years and we must finalize them tonight so that the Selectboard can review them, have a hearing and vote on them at March Town Meeting and the discussion stopped. Randy went home, disappointed.
Two weeks later a member of the JPC was at Clark’s for another reason and he stepped over to Randy’s office and said, “did the Zoning Administrator call you?” “No,” replied Randy. Well, we wrote that in to the new regulations, he said. You wrote what in to the new regulations, replied Randy. It says, you can have a LED Time Temperature with a Community Message Board but you can’t advertise your business. Randy was not pleased, to spend that much money for a sign and he couldn’t say: TRUCK SALE, or Batteries 20% Off.
Randy thought about what had been said and the regulation that the Jericho Board had added and he got to thinking, when his mother purchased the first TT there was no advertising, so why does it need to advertise now?
Randy then looked at the feasibility of Clark's Truck Center purchasing a new LED Time and Temperature with a Computerized Message Board, however the whole country is experiencing a recession and the truck business is also experiencing a down turn in sales, therefore there was not money to pay for a new message board that would not be able to advertise the business. Randy decided that he and Kitty would pay for the new Message Board, kind of on the same pretense that his mother had done over 20 years prior. So in February 2009 Jericho’s first LED Time Temperature Community Message Board was ordered.
March 2009 Town Meeting comes and goes without the new regulation being voted on. April the new regulations are defeated; June the new regulations are defeated again; July the new regulations are finally passed and after a 30 day waiting period, August 6, 2009, the new regulation takes effect. An eight month process just of hearings, voting, more hearings, more voting, etc.
First message: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRIAN, Brian is Randy and Kitty’s second son and his birthday is on August 8th. Daughter in Law, Cathy, says, “you know you are going to be getting more calls?” and to this day, Randy says, “I should have listened to her, because she was right.” Two days later a lady in Underhill Center called and said, “How much would it cost to have my husband, Steve’s, birthday put on your sign?” Randy says, “Being an entrepreneur, dollar signs starting rolling in my eyes and cash register bells rang in my ears!! And then she said, or “should I make a donation to some cause?” Randy replies that he will put Steve’s Birthday up for nothing and he will think about the next call that he will receive.
Part Two of the Story:
When Randy was 16 years old, one sunny Saturday morning, his father said to him, "today I would like to have you attend the cemetery meeting with me!". Now, everyone knows that is just what a 16 year old boy wants to do on a Saturday morning, is to go to a cemetery meeting and hang out with old...45 and 50 year old people!!
Randy's dad says, "upon Poker Hill is a small cemetery and in that cemetery, your grandparents, your great grandparents, and your great-great grandparents are buried there and when I am dead and gone, some is going to have to look after that cemetery."
Randy became a member of the North Underhill Cemetery Association at the age of 16 and has been a member ever since. For 52 years now, Randy has served on the NUCA various boards and is currently the co-sexton and is the treasurer. In August of 2009, Randy was at the cemetery doing the job that his dad had asked him to do, some 52 years ago...look after the cemetery. He noticed, two very large maple trees which were approximately 85 feet tall, 4 to 5 feet in diameter, and were estimated to be 200 years old. These two trees were about as dead as dead could be but had not yet fallen to the ground. Concerned that when these trees did fall, during high winds, or heavy snow fall, Randy contacted the NUCA Trustees and suggested to prevent damage to the cemetery monuments that the trees be cut.
The Trustees called an emergency meeting and after examining the trees, they agreed with Randy that they needed to be cut and asked Randy to get a price to have the trees cut down and cleaned up. Randy contacted DJ's Tree Service in Colchester, a very reputable company with the necessary crane truck that would be required to safely remove the two huge trees and not damage the cemetery monuments or the adjoining neighbors septic mound system. The price quoted was $4,000!!! The Trustees asked Randy how much money there was in the treasure. Randy explained that after the summer mowing was paid there would be approximately $700.00. The Trustees then advised Randy that the trees would not be able to be cut until the necessary funds were available.
What are we going to do now? Three years ago, a limb from another dead tree had fallen and broken two monuments and Randy did not want to see that happen again. Randy contacted the Trustees and said, "how would it be if when someone wants a personal message on the Clark's Truck Center Community Board that he asked that donations be sent to the North Underhill Cemetery Association and we could raise the $4,000 that way?" The Trustees replied that would be OK with them, just as long as Randy could work out the deal with the tree cutting company.
Randy says that the community has supported this project overwhelming. People call Clarks or stop and visit and tell him what they would like put on the Community Message Board. If it is a personal message, I ask them to make a donation to the NUCA in the amount which they value the gift to this person and we encourage them to stop by when the message is on the board and take pictures, as it isn't every day you get your name in lights!!
Community messages are placed on the board at no charge, however some organizations have actually contributed to the cemetery's request for funds.
Randy says that when he has reached the $4,000 goal for the cemetery he will choose another worthwhile cause in the communities of Jericho or Underhill and collect donations for them.
Randy proudly states, "We have a Community Message Board with Community Messages and 100% of the money going back to the community".
June 1, 2010 We are pleased to report that we have reached our first goal...we have raised $4,269.00 for the North Underhill Cemetery Association.
So what are our plans now? We have established a new fund: CLARK'S COMMUNITY HELP FUND, 6 ORR ROAD, JERICHO, VT 05465. We will ask that donations be made to this fund for "personal" messages and any group, organization, needy cause may submit a request in writing as to why they need funds. Clark's will review all requests and donate accordingly to those requests at their digression. Requests will only be entertained from Jericho and Underhill, therefore all monies donated will stay locally for the needs of the communities and their residents. Messages for organizations, town, community, church, etc. are FREE.
A new twist, in January of 2011 the State of Vermont paid us a visit and basically said, stop using your sign as a Community Message Board and changing messages more often then every 15 minutes, or we will fine you $100 per day, take you to court, and remove your sign and send you the bill. We asked what our alternatives were and they said, "change the law".
OK, how do we change the law?
While attending a Calcutta for the Carter Family (we presented them a check in the amount of $3,222) that owned the GAR Hall, which burned in November 2010, Randy was approached by a man that said he was Mike Donohue of the Burlington Free Press and he had heard that we were having issues with the State of Vermont about out Community Message Board and he wanted to do a story. A couple of weeks later he did the story and then WCAX TV and WPTZ TV wanted to do an interview, which we did. After that people called and emailed as well as stopped by and wanted to help.
Randy called the State of Vermont Travel Information Council to see if their meetings were public and the secretary replied, "yes, they are, would you like to be on the agenda?" Randy said, no, he just wanted to see what they did at the meetings. The secretary then sent Randy the agenda for the Feb. meeting and the first item on it was: What are we going to do about Clark's Truck Center's Sign! So Randy called back and said put me on the agenda. He attended the meeting with a good friend, Frank Popeleski, and after being told he had 15 minutes to present his case, the committee went into executive session and ruled the sign did not meet the law and would have to comply within 30 days or $100 a day fine and go to court to get a removal order at Clark's expense. At that point Randy decided to give up. (Feb. 2011)
Part Three of the Story:
At the end of February, Randy and Kitty go on a cruise with friends from Jericho, the first evening they are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with 4100 people on this cruise ship and 1500 crew members, everyone is standing on the main deck waiting for some parade to begin and this man walks up to Randy and says, "Are you Randy Clark?, (what are the chances??) my name is Bob Lombard and I live in Milton, Vermont, 3 years ago I served on a committee on how to inform the people of Milton about community events and we purchased a sign just like yours for $25,000 and put it in the Park on Route 7 in Milton, 2 weeks ago the State of Vermont came and told us that all we can put on that sign is what is happening in the Park, we can not put that there is a basketball game Friday night or a selectman's meeting on Monday night...unless it is happening in the Park. When we get off this ship, I am going to contact Don Turner, House Minority Leader, and we are going to change the law!" In the next 10 days on that cruise Randy never saw this man again.,/p>
Randy and Kitty returned home and when Randy returned to work there was a business card from Pat Brennan, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and a note on the back that said, "Call me, we are going to change the sign law."
The next day a man stopped in and said, "You don't know me but my name is Adam Howard, I am the representative from the Town of Cambridge and I have heard all about your sign from everyone else I would like to hear about it from you." Randy spent an hour and a half explaining the sign. Representative Howard said I would like to have you come to Montpelier on Tuesday at 1pm we are going to change the law! Randy explained that he really was not into law changes and said he probably would not be there.
The next day a woman that Randy knew only as Pam stopped in as she had in the past to put Church messages on the sign in September. She said, "I guess you know why I am here?" Randy replies that it is not September so he does not know why she is there. Pam replies that she writes laws for the State of Vermont!! She was here to help him write a law, so they wrote a very simple law: Signs can display birthdays, anniversaries, and congratulatory messages and can change ever five seconds. Randy still does not want to go to Montpelier to change the law and then Pam persuades him that she knows her way around down there and she will go with him.
Tuesday, Pam and Randy go to the State House and Randy immediately sees Don Turner the House Minority Leader and briefly discusses the sign with him. In the upstairs hallway he meets after 30 years, Representative, Ken Atkins and Ken discusses the sign with him also. Randy goes in the committee room and there is Representative Clem Bissonette, whom Randy has known for years thru the fire service and Representative assures him the law will change.
The meeting is called to order by Chairman Brennan and asks Randy to tell his sign story, Randy says...."How long do I have?" Chairman Brennan says you can take as long as you would like, if you do not finish today you can come back tomorrow! This was a whole different mind set then the Travel Information Council. Now bear in mind that this is the second week in March and normally new laws are not introduced this far in the session as it normally takes three years for a law to be changed.
Randy explained all about the sign and it took a little less than an hour and the committee asked questions and he was able to answer them. Two weeks later the House Transportation Committee passed the recommended sign law change unanimously...which with an eleven member committee never happens.
The new law then goes to the full house (140 Representatives) and the person typing the new law made an error and it read five minutes not five seconds, so it was tried to be changed on the house floor by an amendment by Representative Geo Till and Representative Bill Frank both from the Underhill-Jericho area, however the amendment failed so it passed with no time mentioned. It now goes to the Senate. Representative Till calls Randy and tells him that he needs to contact Senator Mazza as he is against it, Rep. Till says you have moved a mountain and you have got farther than any other bill gets in this time frame but Mazza is against it.
Randy calls Sen. Mazza and the Senator explains to Randy that he needs to sit down with the Travel Information Council and come up with something that will work for all concerned and he will put it through. Randy then tries to contact the seven members of the TIC and only one will talk to him and the Chairman replied by email that he was happy with the old law and there is no change needed!!
Randy calls the Assistant Attorney General that came in January and shut the sign down and said that he needed help on how to proceed. The AG informed Randy that he worked for the State of Vermont and could not help him. At which Randy replied, "did you get the 47 page ruling from the US Supreme Court about the City of San Diego that states, non commercial messages are considered FREEDOM OF SPEECH, and that there is nothing they can do about it!!! At that point the AG suggested that Randy sit down with the Travel Information Council and come up with something that would work for everyone...Well, duh, that is what I am trying to do and no one will talk to me!
Senator Mazza put the law through and then directed the TIC to come up with new recommendations.....and at this point February 2013 we have lived happily ever after;)
Side note: Regarding traffic accidents at the intersection since the sign was put up in 2009: No accidents in 2009; One minor rear end collision in 2010; One rear end collision in 2011; and two rear end collisions in 2012. Why, we believe is because that people cannot read the sign going 50MPH. We have tried to get the speed limit changed for the 1.2 mile stretch and the State says that 85% of the cars are traveling 48 to 50 therefore there is no need to change it!!!!! However, in 2015 they plan on putting in a left turn lane coming from Underhill with no stop light, so we believe there will be more accidents after that happens but I guess they know all the answers.
June 2017 Update: The State of Vermont has recently purchased an additional Right Of Way from us and the neighbors so that they can add turning lanes off of VT RT15 on to Browns Trace and off of Browns Trace on to VT RT15 with a Traffic Light!! They expect this will be done in 2018.
To be continued.....