Turn around and go back

It's summertime, so presumably Benedict College and Allen Uni-versity weren't attracting many out-of-town visitors to campus when new directional signs went up last month in Columbia, S.C. Which was just as well, since the signs for both pointed the wrong way. So did the one for the city's Township Auditorium, which books concerts and shows. In fact, following that sign would have led you to the Congaree River instead. Columbia, you see, awarded a $255,000 contract for a set of 146 "wayfinder" signs to send visitors to various points of interest and reduce the clutter of existing markers. But there were no local bidders, and the contract went to Signage Industries Corp. from neighboring North Carolina.

Now, Signage is hardly new at this business. But since its installers didn't exactly know their way around town, they put up the new directionals on the wrong sides of the street. Embarrassing? Not to hear Columbia officials tell it. The mix-up was good, Mayor Bob Coble (D) told reporters, since "there is nothing we could have done that would have gotten this much attention for our project." Assistant City Manager Steve Gantt shrugged it off as "an innocent mistake." But from now until the project is finished, a municipal employee who knows the territory will tag along with Signage's installers as they go about their work.

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