Pioneer Home residents want a new flagpole

mtheriault@adn.comOctober 22, 2012 

— Six weeks after a windstorm knocked down a historic Sitka spruce flagpole that towered over the downtown Delaney Park Strip, its former neighbors at the Anchorage Pioneers' Home want to know when they can expect a replacement.

"We miss our flag," said Bob Larsen, a lifelong Alaskan and veteran who has lived at the Pioneers' Home for about two years.

For residents used to viewing the pole at the Anchorage Veterans' Memorial from the fifth-floor dining room, the absence of a familiar landmark is a topic of conversation over breakfast and afternoon coffee. Veterans would like to see a replacement go up soon, he said.

"That's heck of an emblem to fiddledink around with," he said.

In a letter to the municipality, Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, wrote that his constituents were frustrated by the situation.

"I'd like to see this happen before the spring," Gara said by phone Monday.

The city and the Anchorage Veterans' Memorial Committee, which has spent years planning and fundraising for a site renovation and expansion, say that is unlikely.

"There's no crisp, clear answer" as to when the new pole will be erected, said Tim Benintendi, a two-tour Vietnam veteran and the head of the memorial committee.

Talks between the committee and city are ongoing but spring is a realistic time for replacement, he said.

Planners have agreed that the new pole will be metal, not wood.

The spruce pole that blew down in September was rotting inside. It fell within four feet of a Purple Heart marker.

The pole it replaced also had rot problems, Benintendi said. Each lasted for a little more than a dozen years.

"We can't afford to have these things falling down randomly," he said. "I'm sure the city attorney's office would agree they don't want the liability."

What's not yet known: how much it will cost to replace the flagpole.

The flagpole was not part of the original budget for the memorial expansion but replacement costs will be covered by grants and donations to the Veterans' Memorial Committee, Benintendi said.

The committee is about $230,000 away from its $1.5 million fundraising goal, he said. That money comes from a mix of city bond funds, state legislative grants and private fundraising, said Holly Spoth-Torres of the city's Parks and Recreation department.

A flagpole could cost up to $30,000, said municipality spokeswoman Lindsay Whitt.

Costs of transport and installation also have to be considered, Benintendi said.

Decisions are still to be made about replacement of a stainless steel globe atop the broken pole and what will become of the chopped-up pieces of spruce. They may be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the veterans' memorial, he said.

The spring timeline may not make everyone happy but is necessary, Whitt said.

"We want to make sure we don't make a rushed mistake," she said.

Larsen said he'll continue to apply gentle pressure until the new pole goes up.

He and other Pioneers' Home residents want to see the flag again: in addition to a patriotic attachment, it was a way to tell which way the wind was blowing, he said.


Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.


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