LIBERTY - Township officials believe first and last impressions can go a long way toward creating a positive image in the minds of the many motorists passing through and around Liberty each day.
In an effort to give local residents, businesses and just plain passers-by something to remember, trustees revamped the area of Belmont Avenue near Interstate 80 with new signage, landscaping and flags.
Trustee Jodi Stoyak said officials discussed improvements in the past, but when Trumbull 100 member and Warren Glass and Paint owner Bill Casey approached township officials about serving as a model for other local communities, they jumped at the chance.
Trustee Jodi Stoyak stands alongside the new Liberty Township welcoming sign and landscaping project along Belmont
"When I told him I wanted to have new signage too, he said, 'Well, we'll pay for the flag and half of the signage,'" Stoyak said.
That meeting put the wheels in motion and, not long after, the township had collected $25,000 in private donations and in-kind contributions from residents and businesses across the county.
"The best thing about it is that we were able to do all of this without spending a dime of taxpayer money," Trustee Stan Nudell said.
Three signs are strategically placed around Belmont Avenue near the I-80 exit, with each one equipped with high-voltage LED lights to make them clearly visible at night.
The electric work to the lights was donated by Trustee Jason Rubin, who also owns CR Electric Inc., donated the time, money and resources to make it work.
"Jason and Trumbull 100 were really the major contributors financially to this," Stoyak said. "I asked (Rubin) for LED lighting because it's more expensive, but in the long run, it will be less expensive for the township to pay for the electric."
In total, 23 local businesses and individuals contributed to the project.
The main welcome sign also features an American flag, a county flag and an Ohio state flag.
"I think it's magnificent. It stands out as the best welcoming signage and light in the county," Stoyak said.
According to Administrator Pat Ungaro, the improvements are a long time coming.
"The flag is something I always wanted to do," Ungaro said. "We threw around for about five years. It came out really great. The signs are artistic looking and were done with class. They're not just concrete."
This project is in line with work done by the Liberty Beautification Committee in the last few years, Stoyak said, which includes planting flowers at several locations around the township.
"We've been leaders in the Mahoning Valley for beautification and cleaning up," Stoyak said. "Now, I think people are starting to recognize the value of having a good presentation. Businesses like it and the people."