Ravenna Township trustees have agreed to donate $10,000 to save the community's historic flagpole on the Portage County Courthouse lawn.
While Friends of the Flagpole are thanking township officials for the donation, they say it doesn't qualify to leverage the grant given by Ravenna native Don Wilson, because his challenge is focused on gifts from individuals.
"It has to come from a citizen of Ravenna or Portage County, or a former citizen of Ravenna or Portage County," said Peggy DiPaola, a Ravenna attorney who heads Friends of the Flagpole along with businessman Jack Schafer.
The group, which formed last April, started its fundraising effort in October. The group is more than half way to its goal of $150,000. If a qualifying donation comes forward to claim Wilson's grant, the group will have $110,000, with only $40,000 to go.
However, Township Trustee Pat Artz said trustees likely will need to revisit the ordinance, since the legislation was written specifically assuming it would leverage Wilson's grant.
Trustees also have asked about using the donated funds in a bequest from the late Ralph Hinman, a former Ravenna Township trustee. Hinman gave $5,000 to maintain the flagpole, but the agreement stipulates that only the interest earned by the investment can be used.
In 2011, after two people climbed the pole, township trustees considered the possibility of giving the flagpole to the city of Ravenna or Portage County, but ended up having a study done on the flagpole's structural integrity.
The resulting report from Osborn Engineering called for $206,000 in repairs. After adding $30,000 in construction documents and $10,000 to run a camera inside the main support beams to make sure there's no corrosion inside the pipes, that bill approaches $250,000.
Balking at the huge price tag, trustees considered razing the pole and replacing it with a smaller model, but have since backed away from that plan when the Friends of the Flagpole brought a proposal to save the 120-year-old landmark.
Friends of the Flagpole obtained a quote from Spensiere LLC, which proposed to take the structure down in three sections, take it to its facility in Syracuse, N.Y., repair it and ship it back to Ravenna and reassemble it. Spensiere, the group noted, recently refurbished a similar pole in Palmyra, N.Y. The estimate also includes work to the site, including a fence around the bottom to discourage climbers. The group thinks preventative maintenance can be done for about $10,000 per year.
The group thinks the flagpole was influenced by the Eiffel Tower, which, although much taller, boasts a similar lattice construction pattern.
Wilson, a 1966 Ravenna High School alumnus, donated the matching grant, saying Ravenna residents should not let their landmarks disappear. A semi-retired bank executive at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, he now lives in Connecticut.
"Too many iconic structures that are part of Ravenna's architectural heritage are disappearing," Wilson said, citing the recent demolition of the community's 1923 high school building on Clinton Street. "Not saving our historic flagpole would mean another regrettable loss of Ravenna's unique identity. Our affection and respect for our town should not let this happen."
Schafer said the organization has come a long way since starting fundraising in the fall.
"We've got a ways to go, but we're getting there sooner than a lot of people think," he said.
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