NEW ORLEANS -- The controversy involves a strip of land on the edge of the 911 headquarters, the Orleans Parish Communication District or OPCD.
The advertising value of an electronic billboard on this strip of land along Interstate 10 with the highest traffic volume of any highway in the state is huge.
“It's the most valuable real estate for advertising of anywhere in the state,” said Col. Terry Ebbert, the chairman of the OPCD.
Marco Outdoor Advertising says it's been negotiating to put up a billboard here for more than a decade.
“We've been patient for 12 years,” said Marc Winston of Marco Outdoor Advertising. “I'd like to get this concluded.”
But OPCD, the 911 center, has a series of concerns about a billboard here. They don't want it to affect their operations. They don't want to assume any liability or higher insurance costs.
“We want to ensure that there's no violation of public bid laws,” Ebbert said.
OPCD Board Member Dr. Brobson Lutz asked whether they should put it out for bids.
But Andy Kopplin said the city really has no choice in this matter. He said the city has a legal obligation to approve Marco's plan for a billboard.
“The city bought a piece of property and inherited a previous agreement, so we have to honor whatever agreements were encumbered on that property when we bought it,” he said.
The deputy mayor said the city will make sure Marco Outdoor Advertising pays fair compensation.
“We're going to be paid as much money as the market will bear under this lease,” Kopplin said.
But Lutz pointed out that Marco's original contract was never recorded with the city objected.
“I also don’t want to be an enabler for the city to do something that may or may not be right,” Lutz said.
Nevertheless, the board approved a motion for attorneys to finalize a cooperative endeavor agreement.
But not before another question raised more concerns.
“The meeting was not properly noticed under the state's open meetings law,” said Charles Maldonado of The Lens.
Ebbert said he believes the meeting did get proper notice, but he added that there might be more discussion about that.
The billboard company did agree to provide public safety messages on the electronic screen it will install.