The Town House flagpole: A brief history

A proposal by AT&T to replace the flagpole in front of the Town House with a much larger pole that can support additional cellular antennas has sparked criticism from town officials and residents alike. With its prominent placement on the Town Common, it’s no wonder so many of you care about how the pole looks.

In a recent comment on this blog, former Southborough Fire Chief Peter F. Phaneuf argues the pole should “first be a flagpole and a source of revenue second,” and provides some (fascinating) historical perspective:

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.

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