Pole problem grounds flagThe huge U.S. flag local residents have seen flying very little this year at Fort Seward, won’t be flying in honor of Veterans Day today. In fact, no one knows when the 60- by 30-foot flag will fly again. Its 130-foot flagpole had to be taken down when it developed a crack two-thirds of the way around at the crank mechanism for raising and lowering the flag.
The huge U.S. flag local residents have seen flying very little this year at Fort Seward, won’t be flying in honor of Veterans Day today.
In fact, no one knows when the 60- by 30-foot flag will fly again. Its 130-foot flagpole had to be taken down when it developed a crack two-thirds of the way around at the crank mechanism for raising and lowering the flag.
“We’re in mourning,” said Dale Marks, chairman of the Fort Seward Reconstruction Committee/Veterans Memorial. “The committee worked hard on this.”
Almost a landmark now, the pole and its flag at Fort Seward were originally part of a national effort called Flags Across America. Four years ago, after fundraising and much local effort, the flag began to fly. Since then a memorial wall and brick walkway honoring veterans and fallen soldiers have been added to the site.
And in commemoration of Veterans Day, the flag would normally have been raised.
“Unfortunately, the pole cracked before it could be raised,” Marks said.
In early June, it was discovered the $30,000 flagpole was cracking at the cranking mechanism. Committee members thought the flag flying in the wind stressed the metal in the pole at the mechanism’s cutout.
The flag did not fly again this summer, as the committee waited for the manufacturer to create a patch for the pole. Finally, the patch arrived and was installed. Taking no chances, Marks said he asked Dan Poland of Poland Machine to weld the patch securely in place.
“We flew it over Labor Day and after and it was fine,” he said. “But when we were getting ready for Veterans Day, we found it cracked at the same spot and right through the patch. And we knew we had to get the pole down right away. Only a third of it was holding it all up.”
Normally, the flag wasn’t raised if it was too windy or rainy. And except for Veterans Day it wasn’t flown outside the summer tourist season. So the flagpole should have been OK with the patch and without the flag flying.
“The manufacturer said it would handle winds up to 120 miles per hour,” Marks said.
Marks speculated the wind two weeks ago with its 60-mile-an-hour gusts is the culprit. The 10,000-pound pole sits high on the hill and maybe caught higher winds that stressed a weak area in it.
“I think when they made a square hole and welded in the door for the crank, it distorted the metal,” he said. “We have a few engineers who are interested in figuring out the problem.”
Marks said he appreciates Nick Scherbenske, who brought a crane to the site to pull out the pole. That entailed digging out part of the mound which flows up to the flagpole.
“The crane couldn’t get stable. It needed a level surface to work,” Marks said.
But the pole wouldn’t come out by pulling.
“So I said get the torch and we cut it,” he said. “Upon inspection, I can see no other cracks anywhere.”
The next steps have yet to be determined. The one-year warranty on the flagpole is long past. Getting the patch from the manufacturer required negotiation and Marks doesn’t know if the manufacturer will do more. He wonders about another patch or a shorter pole. The committee plans to work on solutions through the winter.
This is a blow for tourism as well.
“It’s a great disappointment to have the pole fail,” said Nina Sneider, Buffalo City Tourism executive director. “It’s been one of the key pieces for tourism in Jamestown. And it worked really well as a landmark for directing visitors to Fort Seward.”
She said Buffalo City Tourism will, of course, help in any way.
“If we can help by furnishing matching funds or funding, we’re certainly open to that,” she said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com