Middletown council compromises on veteran banners

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — Middletown Borough Council sought compromise on Tuesday night after members of the public criticized the handling of a program intended to honor local veterans.

The Hometown Heroes banner program that began in spring gave residents and businesses the opportunity to purchase vinyl banners featuring photos of family members who served in the military. An original advertisement for the program stated the $85 banners would hang on lampposts or utility poles throughout the borough from May to September for two years. The first offering led to the purchase of 88 banners, which were ordered and displayed during the promoted timeline.

As more residents learned of the program, a second offering of banners was made. According to a representative with the Bob Smith Detachment #74 of the Marine Corps League, which handled the sale of the banners and hanging brackets, an additional 187 banners were ordered. The second round of banners has yet to go on display.

“I was under the impression they going to be hung this fall,” one resident told the council during the public comment period at Tuesday’s work session. “If you need some help, I can get some guys to help.”

“There are 187 banners that citizens paid for and still haven’t been displayed,” Sherry Waple said. “I understand there has been an overwhelming response to the program, but I would like to know why there is such a delay.”

Middletown Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach explained that his staff of four was “overwhelmed with work.” Additionally, he said the second round of banners did not arrive until September, and the council had not provided clear direction on how to proceed.

“The overwhelming response necessitates a change in the program,” said Councilwoman Diana McGlone, who helped originate the program earlier this year, inspired by her father and son who served in the military. “Therefore, I move Borough Council to hang these banners … so that all Hometown Hero banners received in 2017 remain on display throughout our borough through Veterans Day 2018.”

McGlone further suggested that if hanging of banners was scattered out over the course of the next few months, all could be in place by the end of November.

Mayor James Curry countered with a compromise plan.

“We need to mesh the wants of the 187 people who purchased banners with the needs of our borough and its 8,900 residents,” he said.

Curry suggested while the Hometown Hero banners were a welcome addition to the borough, their display should remain seasonal as first advertised, and their hanging should not take priority over the required duties of Public Works employees.

“Borough business comes first. Borough maintenance comes first,” Curry added. “That’s what we own.”

The mayor proposed a plan in which all residents who purchased banners would see them displayed for two full seasons, from May through September, as first advertised. To accomplish that, the original 88 banners that have been on display in 2017 would be removed by the end of the month. In May of 2018, both the original 88 banners and the additional 187 would all be hung simultaneously around the borough until September of 2018. At that time, the first wave of banners would be retired and returned to those who purchased them. In May of 2019, the 187 banners purchased in the second offering would be displayed by themselves until being retired in September 2019 and returned to their owners.

“At that time, we will have a clean slate,” said Curry. “We can reassess the program as needed.’

Council voted 5-2 in favor of Curry’s proposal.

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