by GEOFF FOX
The first phase of the veterans banner project will come to an end on Tuesday evening, September 11, as town officials will dedicate the banners in Widmeyer Park.
Mayor Ralph Salvagno said the hope is to recognize those veterans on the banners as well as all veterans at that point.
“I think the project has far exceeded our expectations and anticipation,” Salvagno said. He added it’s been really embraced by the community and also excited about the project in general.
Councilman Leo Murray said during the dedication there would be music and light refreshments at the event.
“I want as many people that bought a banner to come, I really do,” Murray said. He said there are over 140 banners through town and in the park.
Salvagno praised Murray’s efforts in the project since he brought the idea to town officials about two years ago.
Salvagno said Murray’s work has included going above and beyond using his personal time and money to get the project together.
Salvagno said the banners lining the park would fit in nicely with the War Memorial already in the park and the new library, which will be named the War Memorial Library.
There are plans to rename Park Road in honor of the veterans, but there are some tie-ups in the process, namely the 911 restrictions.
Salvagno said they are working through making sure there are no duplications of names already being used in the county.
“I don’t know if that will happen by the eleventh, but that really is our plan,” the mayor said.
Salvagno and Murray both said there would be no more orders placed for new banners, however they will be taking names of those who would want one once the next phase starts. There is hope the project will continue in the future.
Murray said while he has a couple banners on order, they will be the last ones he will take this year.
He will, however, take names of those interested in buying a banner and keep a waiting list until there is money to buy more poles.
Murray said the town should know something within “the next month or so” once they find out and work out more details about more poles.
Salvagno added the town needs to refresh itself and finish the current phase of the banner project. Officials want to make sure those who have paid are taken care of, set up a system for banner rotation through the town and recognize those who donated toward the poles.
Once all that is completed, the mayor said they could go back to the waiting list and engage them and figure out how the second phase would work.
The town and county have put money in the project and there has been a positive response from the community as well.
“You don’t want to get over extended, don’t want to promise something that we can’t deliver on,” Salvagno said.
Idea came from Clear Spring
Murray said he got the idea from driving along Route 40 in Clear Spring and seeing similar banners hanging in that town and thought it would be a good idea for Hancock.
He then talked to Debbie Murphy with the Parks Board and telling the town it wouldn’t cost the town any money. Family members of the veterans paid for the banners.
With the new library and memorial already there, they asked about putting the banners in the park.
An aerial picture of the park was taken and the poles for the banner project were laid out in 60-foot intervals.
Murray said the town approached the company who supplies poles for Potomac Edison and they came up with a 14-foot pole with a number of specs required for each pole.
This led to a $339 price tag for each pole. A low bid to dig the holes for poles was $28,000, which included $4,200 to put the poles on the bases. A final total of the entire banner project was over $50,000, Murray said.
Murray and the town then decided to erect the poles on the bases themselves to save that $4,200.
Over two years, Washington County Commissioners gave Murray $20,000 for the project and the town gave $25,000. This left the project $9,000 short.
Murray started selling sponsorships for each pole. Since starting that effort, he’s raised not only that amount, but also another $1,850 for a total of $10,850.
Murray said people weren’t hesitant to make some type of donation towards the project.
“It just took on a life of its own,” he said.
When the banners went up, town crews were out on the street and in the park putting them on the poles.
Murray, as he has at town meetings, praised the crews for doing “a fantastic job” with the banners.
While he’ll feel relief the first phase of the banner project is over, Murray said he really enjoyed working on it.
When taking the final banners to show the families who bought them, Murray said he had a few people cry when they saw the banner.
“It just makes you feel good that you showed them. It makes it worthwhile,” he said.
Murray said he has no regrets about the project except that he doesn’t have enough places to put up more banners.