American flags returning to Woolwich

Posted:  Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 8:45am
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Woolwich select board members Jason Shaw, Allison Hepler and Dale Chadbourne at Monday’s meeting. PHIL DI VECE/Wiscasset Newspaper

American flags will again line Route One in Woolwich after volunteers stepped up to carry on the tradition.

On Monday evening, the select board worked out a plan with Arthur and Gloria Brawn to continue placing flags on utility poles. An article to consider funding the effort is planned for next year’s town meeting. In the meantime, volunteers will be relied on to hang the flags on poles from Dairy Queen to the Taste of Maine.

The board found itself involved when liability concerns were raised about firefighters mounting the flags. A legal opinion from Maine Municipal Association warned, injuries wouldn’t be covered by the town’s insurance.

Fire Chief Mike Demers said he couldn’t in good conscience send firefighters out to help hang the flags. “There’s not a guy on the department that wouldn’t offer to help,” he told the Brawns.

Town Administrator Lynette Eastman added although Woolwich has a pole agreement to hang the flags with Central Maine Power and FairPoint Communication, the townspeople  never authorized it. “MMA recommends either we have the townspeople authorize the agreement or have private people put up the flags.”

David King, select board chair, said he was certain voters would authorize the pole agreement and help fund the flag project. He didn’t feel a special town meeting was warranted. “You’ve kind of caught us between a rock and a hard place because we don’t have the authority to do what it is you’re asking.”

Selectman Dale Chadbourne asked, “Why can’t we just find people willing to put up the flags this year and then next year have an article on the town meeting warrant?”

Glen Kirkpatrick told Brawn he’d be willing to hang all the flags. “I guarantee they’ll be up by Memorial Day,” he said. Others expressed a willingness to help as well.

The town has only five of the 14 American flags it needs. The others were too worn after two seasons of use and retired. Two of the 14 mounting poles are broken and some are also missing their ring mounts.

Eastman said the flag donation account has $1,218 in it. Gloria Brawn said all of the monies for the flag project were raised through private donations she and her husband and others had collected. The town office will look into purchasing new flags, poles and mounts.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Don Adams of Shaw Road raised concerns over large expenditures being decided by less than 10 percent of the town’s registered voters at the annual town meeting. Adams felt the article concerning the solar project and one for funding the Patten Free Library should have be considered at the general election when voter turnout is higher. Adams said he supported the fire truck purchase but added that should have been held for the general election as well.

King strongly disagreed, saying the town meeting had been advertised well in advance. He added residents who wanted to had the opportunity to address any warrant article arguing either for or against its passage. King further noted the town meeting form of government has served the community for more than 200 years.

Selectmen elevated Tom Stoner from an alternate, to full-time member of the planning board and appointed Dr. Paul Dumdey as an alternate.

The board signed the warrant for the 2017-18 Regional School Unit 1 budget validation referendum on Tuesday, June. 13. Polls at Woolwich Central School will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The board noted the passing of two longtime residents, Diane Longley, 79, of Old Stage Road and Dean A. Baker, 72, of Nequasset Road.