Friday, November 11, 2005
Neighbors nix night-flying of Town Common flag
It seemed like a good idea and so the Board of Selectmen decided to "run it up a flagpole and see if it flies." They held a public hearing on November 8 concerning the possibility of lighting the town flag on the Common during the night hours. The daily raising and lowering of the flag appeared to cause excessive wear of the rope and it can cost the town as much as $1,200 to attach a new rope to the top of the flagpole each time it breaks. The Board suggested that a spotlight aimed upwards at the flag would allow it to remain aloft 24 hours a day. Townspeople did not agree and the immediate response from abutters at the hearing was blunt and overwhelmingly negative.
John Lee of Lowell Street kicked off the discussion by claiming that it will only add more light pollution to the town center. "I can't see that it performs any public service," he said. "I would be most unhappy if I was an abutter." Liz Carpenter of Concord Street asked whether the spotlight would have to remain on all night and was chagrined to hear an answer of "Yes." Tom Ratcliffe of Concord Street, and Keeper of the Town Flag, felt that if the rope and pulley mechanism were properly maintained, the town wouldn't have to spend $1,200 every year to fix it.
But it was Jack O'Connor of Church Street who sealed the doom of the spotlighted flag. In a six-page memo to the Board of Selectmen, he gave a detailed chronology of the flagpole failures and various jury-rig solutions, including at one point attempting to splice the halyard (rope) together with duct tape. O'Connor reviewed the main points of his memo at the hearing and concluded that lighting the flag does not address the problem of lack of proper maintenance of the flagpole and associated hardware. "Significant flagpole halyard wear does not result from raising and lowering the flag," he said. "Most abrasive wear on a halyard occurs at the top where the line bears on the sheave (pulley) and against the sides of the truck (the casing mounted on the top of the flagpole that holds the sheave)," he said. "If the town had replaced the original halyard immediately on report of fraying, repair could have been done from the ground using correct splicing techniques."
A recent attempt to use a wire-core line, normally used for security purposes to minimize vandalism, has been ineffective since the outer cover of the line wears through to the wire core, slips off the sheave and then jams against the side of the truck. O'Connor also suspects that the present flag may be too big for the pole and its hardware. "What are the design criteria for this flagpole?" he asked. Overwhelmed by the flagpole expertise forthcoming from O'Connor, no one on the Board was tempted to challenge his appraisal of the situation. Chair Doug Stevenson acknowledged the obvious — townspeople were not in favor of the spotlight and that regular maintenance was the best solution. No vote was taken by the Board, but Stevenson referred the matter to the Town Common Committee, to be guided by the opinions voiced at the public hearing.
© 2005 The