Selectmen oppose plan for “ugly” new Town House flagpole

Above: The existing and proposed Town House flagpole, based on a mock up by AT&T

“It looks like one of the supports for the space shuttle.”

“It looks like a mast.”

“It’s butt-ugly.”

Those were all comments made by selectmen last week to describe a new 28-inch flagpole AT&T wants to install in front of the Southborough Town House. As you can probably guess from their reaction, the selectmen weren’t thrilled with the plan.

The current flagpole at the Town House, which is 18 inches at its base and 12 inches at the top, houses three AT&T antennas. AT&T contractor Peter Fales told selectmen last week that as part of a move to upgrade their high speed data services, the telecommunications company wants to add three new LTE antennas.

The problem is, the current pole is too small to support the installation. So AT&T has proposed installing a non-tapering 28-inch flag pole, the minimum diameter required to support the new antennas.

“This is one ugly flagpole,” Selectman John Rooney said while looking at mock-ups provided by Fales. “It doesn’t even look like a flagpole.”

AT&T currently pays the town about $2K a month for the right to use the flagpole. Fales said the company would be willing to increase their payment by $500 per month for the new antennas, an amount he called “fair.”

Rooney disagreed. “For this to ever get an affirmative vote, AT&T is going to have to substantially, substantially increase the lease proposal,” he said.

But even if AT&T comes back with a higher proposal, Selectmen indicated aesthetics may be a deal-breaker.

“As a veteran from this town, I would look at that thing and be appalled,” Selectman Dan Kolenda, an Iraq war veteran, said of the proposed design.

Selectman Bill Boland read a letter from Main Street neighbor Dr. Timothy (“Doc”) Stone. “The fatter it becomes, the less it looks like a flagpole,” Stone wrote. “It could more accurately be described as a smoke stack.”

If AT&T is successful in securing approval from selectmen, they’ll still need to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals to get a special permit for the work.

Want to judge for yourself? Click here for a larger before-and-after picture, then share your thoughts in the comments.

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SB Resident
12 years ago

That *is* really fugly. I’m glad our selectmen have at least some sense. I don’t remember where but recently I noticed a really fat flag pole (probably 5x the larger picture) atop some building and boy was it noticeable and it was quite the eyesore especially since the scale with the flag gets so skewed. I’m happy to learn why it was that way, but its too bad that the looks of our world can be bought. :-( AT&T better hire some better antenna engineers.

Pat Q
12 years ago

Can a bigger flag be used to better match the size of the pole? Maybe if the scale
of the two pieces were closer it would be more appealing to the eye. Just a thought…..

Deb Moore
12 years ago
Reply to  Pat Q

I agree. It is wicked ugly in the picture, but perhaps it would be more appealing with a larger flag. Perhaps the correct size of flag would be unpleasantly large for the building, though, and I’m not up to installing a larger building for an antenna upgrade.
(Seriously, I would be interested in seeing the mockup with a larger flag before deciding.)

12 years ago
Reply to  Pat Q

Yea, I’d like to see this with a larger flag. That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the enlarged picture. I do like the idea of leasing flagpoles for cellular service. It’s much better than looking at unsightly cell towers.

12 years ago

I agree with Doc Stone…. looks like a smokestack wannabe. Really wrong proportions. I’d like to see a larger flag anyway, but why not add another flagpole somewhere nearby? Or see if the Pilgrim Church steeple has any more room… (not sure but think there’s already cell tower in its steeple). Definitely a no for the proposed “flagpole/smokestack”

Al Hamilton
12 years ago

The purpose of a flag pole is to facilitate the display of the flag. I don’t have a problem with putting an antenna in a flag pole provided it does not detract from the real purpose of the pole. This design fails to perform its first function properly, it detracts from the flag.

Paul Gaffney
12 years ago

flag is way too small in both cases; the width of a flag should be 1/4 of the height of the pole; if that pole is 100′ tall, it should be flying a 15′ tall x 25′ wide flag. With a correctly proportioned flag, the diameter of the pole will be way less of an issue IMHO. Please see:

12 years ago
Reply to  Paul Gaffney

Excellent point raised by Mr Gaffney. That’s a tiny flag on a large pole. The next time you’re on Rt 9 westbound in Westboro, look at the HUGE flag flying from the pole at a new car dealer. Its really majestic!

Of course we might need to get yet another police car to guard our new and expensive flag ;)

Carl Guyer
12 years ago
Reply to  Don

I believe you have hit the nail on the head by associating At&T’s interest in this proposal with flag waving car dealers.

12 years ago

For $30k per year, let’s work at making this happen. I could get used to it, especially with the larger flag. And if $30k is their first offer, let’s hold out for $36!

12 years ago

In my opinion we too often give up aesthetics to cut corners and save money. We see it in commercial buildings, in many newer houses, fences (glossy plastic instead of wood) etc etc. It is nice to save money. I do it all the time, but not at the loss of good appearance, especially in such a prominent place in town. any other options?

12 years ago

In the picture – it does seem “butt ugly” – BUT – I really think that could be fixed with a much larger flag. If you are driving on Rt. 9 westbound – look at the “Ika” building just after Farrel Volvo – they just installed one of these flag poles on top of the building – and it does not look too bad. Personally, I hope they do install the new antennas in town – I would be very happy if we got the new 4G service on ATT – just like Verizon is offering,… Anything to stop all those dropped calls on my wife’s Iphone

12 years ago

I agree that it is really disproportionate in the photo but I’m not sold on it the idea that it will look better with a bigger flag. I’m on the same page as “Debbie” that we don’t want to rush into this without really analyzing the aesthetics.

3rd Generation
12 years ago

I am disheartened to think that our beloved town would even consider desecrating what is supposed to be a monument to this country and those who have lived and died to preserve its ideals.

I’m no vexillologist, but the design being proposed is a travesty and an abomination given its proximity to our war cemeteries and monuments. I surely hope our townspeople don’t equate a town common with the likes of car dealerships and their displays. I rather be living in the town with the beautiful town common of yesteryear that the common that reminds me of the glorious landscape of the Auto Mile.

The flagpole that long stood in front of the Pilgrim Church was replaced after it was literally falling apart and posed a safety concern. It was only after a long and arduous process that the current design was approved; a design that was a collaborative effort among many town constituencies. This new design- and dare one even consider it such seems to be offensive to those with any sense of the craft- is appalling. Aside from looking like nothing more than a glorified telephone pole, it offers no sense of reverence to what a flag pole is meant to represent. Less we forget, it was only a couple of years ago that our town common had its brief moment on the Hollywood stage because our common was deemed to represent a true New England landscape.

How tragic that AT&T thinks that this town can be bought out….at least, let’s hope we can’t…

12 years ago

Definitely think we need a much bigger flag to go with a pole that size. If AT&T will buy a bigger flag, maybe we should consider it…

Carl Guyer
12 years ago

Nice try AT&T……. Thumbs up to our Selectmen

12 years ago

As the selectmen discuss this issue, I suggest they look at these issues:

1) How would the proposed 28″ flagpole compare to one of the newer telephone poles installed in town in terms of width. That comparison would allow folks at least some basis to determine just how “big” the proposed pole really is.

2) Perhaps the Selectmen can find a way to determine how much additional revenue this new tower would bring to AT+T. How many customers can the old tower handle at once, and how many customers can the new tower handle at once. Also, keep in mind that AT+T has recently announced they will no longer offer unlimited data usage on cell phone plans so their revenue will increase substantially with the new type of service the new tower will allow.them to provide.

If these back pf the envelope type calculations show that AT+T can increase their revenue form this tower by a multiple of four, then perhaps the Selectmen should ask for a four fold increase in fee..

3) The comments about the small flag on the big pole have some merit. It might help for AT+T, or some web savy Southboro person, to retouch their photo and show an appropriately sized flag.

4) I believe the highest point of undeveloped land in town is on the north side of Rt 9 adjacent to Rt 495. (I recall some discussion on this during the water tower debates a few years ago.) If AT+T doesn’t get to put to replace the tower, what would stop them from putting one on the land along 495 or even asking one of our schools in town to put it on their land. St Mark’s has some high areas adjacent to the new ball field.

5) AT+T could paint it green, dress it up like one of those fake evergreen trees on the Pike!

Let’s get handle on the possible revenue this could bring to the town before we discard this out of hand. Next year’s town budget will be brutal!

Peter F. Phaneuf
12 years ago

Over the past year I have been reading this blog and have read a number of comments made void of historical facts. The decision to alter the design of the Town flagpole should not be taken lightly; history clearly demonstrates that the design of the flagpoles for our Town has not been done in haste. As such, in the interest of accurate and productive dialog concerning the flagpole on the Town Common, I offer the following for your consideration.

The flagpole prior to the existing flagpole/cell tower was installed by the Town in the 1930s. In the mid 1980s Veterans Agent George Hubley went to Town Meeting asking for funds to replace the pole because it was rusting at the base. He explained at this time that the pole had the unique distinction of being the second tallest pole in Worcester County, proudly towering over our common at 105 feet. The article did not get approved.

Around 1995, I noted that the cleat that holds the rope to the pole had rusted out; indicating that serious corrosion was taking place and that a serious incident was probable if not corrected. I notified the Building Inspector and it was agreed that the flag would be removed in order to remove the stress on the old pole.
The Selectmen then appointed Veterans Agent Irene Tibert, Town Administrator Janice Conlin, and myself, as a veteran, to research the cost involved to replace the pole. As we started looking at costs of a new pole it was suggested by Assessor Art Holmes that a roof top pole located on a building on Rt.9 was being used as a cell tower. I contacted AT&T; they were interested and ran tests as to the usefulness of the Town House location. Their findings determined that the location was good for a cell site.

The committee spent considerable time in negotiation with AT&T stressing that any replacement of the pole must replicate the existing historical pole as closely as possible. This was not an easy sell. They offered up an array of pipes and stands used for high tension towers. We looked at these options and said “no” they gave us a design based on our request. The value of the pole and installation at that time was approximately $75,000. , AT&T took on these costs .We also put in the agreement that when the pole was no longer needed as a cell tower that the ownership of the flagpole would revert to the Town. The pole site was moved from in front of the Pilgrim Church to the existing location to keep it away from the road salt.

The size of the flag is the size engineered for a pole of this height and elevation. The stress from a flag are considerable the ratio of flag size to height and wind conditions is a science.

Since 1999 the revenue for this cell location to the Town has been increasing each year to its present rate of $25,545.91 per year and AT&T provides replacement flags when requested.

The proposed new flagpole is a large diameter, 95 foot pipe, with a little ball on top, with a flag attached. I agree with the Selectmen and many of you who have commented that this proposal is a disgrace to our flag and to our Southborough’s history and all they represents. In short, the current flagpole was always intended to first be a flagpole and a source of revenue second.

As radio commentator Paul Harvey would say at the end of his broadcast, “and that’s the rest of the story” .

Mike Fuce
12 years ago

The bigger flag would work to make it more aesthetically perfect. We had to do it at the lake house pole. The new pole was too big for the old smaller American flag so we got a bigger one. And I negotiated some of these contracts for Sprint years ago and i still know that att, sprint will pay $3-4000 per month and more. Push it to $4000 a month and go for it. That is a lot of cash folks for our town. $48,000 a year pays someones salary. But get over it on looks selectmen and take the cash. We need it. But push and stand for the higher monthly re-occurring payment.

John Kendall
12 years ago

Peter Phaneuf said it all, and he is very correct.

3rd Generation
12 years ago

Well said, Chief- indeed, a flagpole FIRST, cellphone tower SECOND.

I’m baffled by some of the arguments on this page- so many commenters were irate last year over the fact that St. Mark’s wouldn’t mow their lawn, but are ok if we erect this new design? That flag pole cannot be mowed down…

William Perricotti
12 years ago

I left Southboro at 17 and joined the Army for 21 years, After looking at the new flag pole i think it looks a large pipe sticking up out of the ground. IT IS NOT A FLAG POLE.

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