Avista board

Free Press / David Rauzi

Installed Feb. 3, the Avista electronic messaging center is located at the Idaho County Courthouse in Grangeville, facing east and west on Main Street.

GRANGEVILLE – Gone is the reader board with its announcements placed by hand, letter by letter, now replaced with an electronic messaging center that Avista Corporation states will benefit not just Grangeville, but also surrounding communities.

The double-faced Watchfire brand 16mm electric message center was installed last Monday, Feb. 3, at the Main and South Idaho streets intersection at the Idaho County Courthouse by Sign Crafters, Inc., of Lewiston. The 41-foot tall, 8-foot-3-inch-wide screens provide full color, 18 quadrillion shade display capability, and can play prerecorded video clips, animated text and graphics.

Grangeville is the first of four communities (including Nezperce, Orofino and Rockford, Wash.) to receive the message center, according to Mike Tatko, Avista regional business manager, Lewis-Clark Region. These are provided by Avista as part of a more than $7 million investment – coming off the company’s 130th birthday in March 2019 -- to fund initiatives in communities within its coverage area. Those initiatives are homelessness, small-town pride (which the message centers fall under) and youth success.

Funding for this $7 million investment does not come from utility rates, Tatko clarified, but instead comes from shareholders through the various philanthropy programs of Avista.

These truly are community reader boards, he said.

“They’re not just for school sporting events or simply to broadcast the time and temperature,” Tatko said. “They’re meant for everyone in the community to get appropriate messages broadcast to inform others of happenings in the community. And since they are going up in three county seats -- Grangeville, Nezperce and Orofino -- we’re hopeful that appropriate county-wide messages will be broadcast so that visitors to the county seats from other cities will benefit, as well.”

According to Tatko, Mt. View School District 244 has agreed to be the point of contact for messages to be displayed on the Grangeville board. Avista is currently working with Sign Crafters and the MVSD 244 on training for district employees and perhaps students to program the board. On completion, Avista will publicize through news media and the board itself how patrons can have a message broadcast.

Tatko noted the message center idea came from Grangeville Local Representative for Avista Eric Robie.

“I'm thankful he's such a great community supporter and that his idea could come about,” he said.

The message center also reflects changing times, as Avista moves away from hanging street banners.

“Increasingly, transportation departments throughout our service territory are cautioning us from continuing the unsafe practice of hanging banners across streets, highways and other roads,” Tatko said. “The reader boards will replace banners that announce community events. The best part about the reader boards is that countless events and notices can cycle through continuously. No longer will those responsible for the reader boards have to wait until one event is over to take down the letters and put up new ones.”

On the other three message center projects, Nezperce has its pending installation this month, and Orofino and Rockford are deciding on locations for placement.

“We’re grateful for the hard work and collaboration of our communities over the years as we’ve worked side by side to make our communities what they are today,” Tatko said. “We’re pleased to build on our legacy of community stewardship with this contribution that will serve to elevate the great work already being done, and expand the possibilities for what we can accomplish together into the future.”

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