Let there be no confusion: Burnsville Welcomes You!

The city is tweaking the design for new signs announcing its borders -- with a pleasant greeting -- that could start popping up next year along main roadways that bring people to town.

"When you're coming in to Burnsville, you don't know whether you've arrived," said Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. "Every city wants to welcome people."

But the greeting doesn't come cheap. City staff estimate that each sign -- much bigger and more decorative than the standard-issue green metal road bearing a city's name and population -- could cost $50,000.

The design idea gaining the most support from Burnsville City Council members is a monument, about 15 feet high and 30 feet long, with a limestone base, metal sign box and letters, and a curved top. Like the monuments that mark entrances to subdivisions, it could be lighted at night.

The signs may also feature an updated city logo, although council members aren't yet in agreement about how to replace the current graphic, chosen through a design contest in the 1970s.

The city has been setting aside money to build the signs, with plans to install the first one next year along Hwy. 13 near the eastern entrance to Burnsville.

Other signs would be added roughly every other year, coinciding with construction projects. Eventually, the city would have the signs at borders along Hwy. 13, County Road 42 and Interstate 35.

The project has been in the works for more than a decade, delayed because of the cost.

But the desire to stake out a civic identity isn't unique to Burnsville.

Savage, Prior Lake and Shakopee have all added monument signs in recent years, aiming to differentiate one suburb from another.

Kautz pointed to Rochester and Cannon Falls as other places that have built signs.

While admitting that paying for the signs may not be palatable from a political perspective, Kautz said there are benefits to spending money on sprucing up the city's appearance and adding amenities.

"You want to attract companies into your city, you want to attract the creative class into the city," she said. "We're on a global stage, and everybody is looking to make sure they can attract businesses to come in."

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286