By Clara Chooi, IPOH, Dec 18 — Despite running a deficit budget, the Ipoh City Council this year built two giant signs spelling the city's name at entry points on the PLUS expressway for RM800,000.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politicians blamed the Perak palace for the signage, modelled on the famous Hollywood sign in the United States, saying they managed to reduce it to two from the initial four when it was built early this year.
The Ipoh City Council confirmed with The Malaysian Insider the whopping cost, which amounts to RM100,000 for each letter that spells out the words "Ipoh".
It is understood that the signs were erected in January this year for two reasons — to mark the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah's silver jubilee celebration and to turn the city of Ipoh into a significant landmark to entice more tourist stopovers.
The RM800,000 spent on the two signs does not include maintenance work and the cost of electricity used to power up the spotlights at night.
A source from the ousted PR state government revealed to The Malaysian Insider yesterday that the proposal to erect the signs had come from the palace last year and the initial suggestion was actually to put up four such signs along the main arteries entering the city.
"The PR government rejected the idea when it was mooted because it was clearly a terrible waste of public funds," said the source, who declined to be named.
The source added that the signage also bore little aesthetic value and would not have helped to boost the city's economy in any way.
"In the first place, there are enough road signboards on the highway to inform people where Ipoh is.
"Not only that, before they allowed the continuous travel between Kuala Lumpur and Penang on the highway, motorists had to pay their toll in Ipoh before they proceeded on their journey.
"Everyone knows where Ipoh is," said the source.
The PR government was toppled when three of its lawmakers resigned to be independent, prompting the Perak royalty to name Barisan Nasional Pangkor assemblyman Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir as mentri besar.
When contacted yesterday, Ipoh Mayor Datuk Roshidi Hashim admitted to The Malaysian Insider the cost of the two signs.
He said that the reason why the signs were so expensive was because each letter had to be lifted up to be erected on its lofty perch up on two separate hills.
"They had to bring in a skylift crane from Kuala Lumpur to erect the letters and this cost us quite a bit," he said.
He said however that the PR government had not completely rejected the idea but had merely voiced some disapproval.
"I also discussed it with (former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad) Nizar (Jamaluddin) and he did suggest putting it up along the Ipoh-Lumut highway," said Roshidi.
Meanwhile, the signs, which spell out the name "Ipoh" using white letters, already seems to be stained with dark blotches.
Roshidi said he was aware of this and had already assigned a city engineer to be in charge of maintaining the signs.
The maintenance work, he added, would include cleaning the letters as well as ensuring that the spotlights to light up each letter at night were working well.
"We also have to clean the undergrowth of the hills behind the signage and keep the place neat," he said.
Roshidi also agreed that the city was currently still running on a deficit budget of between RM7 million and RM10 million.
"But still, our arrears collection has improved tremendously by up to 36 per cent this year alone.
"We also have a huge reserve so we can run without collections for at least six months," he said.
Before the giant Ipoh signs, motorists on the old federal road would know they were near the capital of the tin-rich state from the giant Mercedes Benz three-pointed star logo at the city's southern approach, signifying the wealth of its residents who favoured the German marque.
The only other city with a giant signage is Kuala Terengganu which has the word “Allah” on the hill after Pulau Duyong.