Big Flag will fly again
"It was an accident," Dave Rice, Sr., the committee's chairman, said on Wednesday. "When I have an accident my insurance pays, and it's no different here."
The flagpole and city sign were damaged at 3:40 p.m. on Nov. 6, according to police, when Anthony Schmalz of 357 Columbus Way, driving a 2007 Honda Civic, "struck a cut off telephone pole, several street lights, the 'Welcome to Marco Island' sign and a large metal flag pole." Schmalz was taken to the hospital by ambulance with minor injuries.
Schmalz told police he crossed the bridge and "blacked out" and was not sure what happened next.
The police did not suspect alcohol use.
On Thursday, Tim Pinter, Marco Island public works director, estimated the cost to replace the flagpole, removing the old pole and fixing the electrical, at $12,000.
The original pole was purchased by Mike and Jill Havey as a donation to the committee. The couple told the committee they would advance funds for a new pole so it could be ordered immediately.
They will wait for reimbursement from the insurance company. The Haveys are willing to pay for the second pole if the insurance company does not, Rice said.
The height of the new pole will remain the same, but changes will be made to improve maintenance and ease of use.
"With the halyards on the outside, the weight of the flag made it really hard to raise," Rice said. The new pole will have internal halyards and a crank making it easier for one person to raise and lower the flag.
The original flag was not damaged, Rice said, and will be the first raised on the new flagpole. When a flag is worn or damaged, the committee has a program to replace it with a temporary flag. At a following patriotic milestone, the next donated flag is officially installed in a ceremony open to the public.
"There's no time frame I can put my finger on as to when the new pole will be installed," Rice said. "We have the money and hope to have it in no later than February."
Pinter said Thursday the process to replace the pole is in place. A purchase order has been created to remove the old pole and purchase and install the new one. The order also includes all necessary electrical work.
Pinter said Bob Creighton in the finance department was creating a package to send to Allstate, the motorist's insurance company. All city costs related to the accident will be included as items for reimbursement. In a statement, the committee reiterated that no public funds would be used for the pole or flag replacements. Leo Sutera, the committee's fundraiser, is the contact for donations and can be reached by email at LSBSmarco@aol.com or by phone at (781) 820-8899.