By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — The calendar says New Year’s, but the flashing electronic message board parked at a prominent downtown intersection suggests Election Day.
The Department of Public Works recently spent $60,000 on four of the solar-powered boards and their two-wheeled trailers — complete with boots to prevent theft — to alert residents of the new garbage-pickup schedule and to communicate other public service announcements such as street closings and winter parking bans.
But, during this holiday season, Mayor William Lantigua found another purpose for at least one of the signs, which he has commandeered to flash a more personal message.
“Happy New Year” reads the first of the three rolling screens, each flashing for about three seconds, on a sign parked at the North Lawrence foot of the Central Bridge connecting Parker and Amesbury streets over the Merrimack River.
“Great City of Lawrence” reads the second.
“Mayor William Lantigua” reads the third.
Before Christmas, one screen sign read “Happy Holidays 2012.”
Acting DPW Commissioner John Isensee would not comment when asked whether the message was his idea or someone else’s.
Lantigua, who has indicated he will be running for a second term this year, did not return a phone call for comment.
Reached by telephone, former Mayor Michael Sullivan had an opinion about the signs.
“Two months ago, (state) Attorney General (Martha Coakley) spent thousands of dollars criminally charging Tim Cahill for inappropriate use of public money to promote himself,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to sound like Scrooge here, but this pretty much sounds like he’s doing the same thing.”
Cahill was acquitted.