Gigantic flag eyed on school grounds in Paxton

PAXTON — Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board members directed Superintendent Cliff McClure on Wednesday night to work with Paxton Fire Chief Denny Kingren to find a suitable location on school district property for the placement of a 150-foot flagpole that would fly a gigantic American flag.

Kingren suggested putting the flagpole on either the west side or north side of the high school and junior high school complex in Paxton, immediately east of Interstate 57. Kingren said that earlier that day, he marked out potential locations that are 150 feet from the fence bordering the highway to give the board options to consider.

“It just gives you an idea of maybe where it could go,” Kingren said.

The five board members in attendance said that as long as an agreeable site can be found, they would support Kingren’s proposal.

“I have no problem with it if we can find a spot here on the property where it won’t fall onto the interstate and it won’t fall onto the school, just things like that,” said the board’s vice president, Dave Dowling of Paxton. “If we can find a spot that everybody’s happy with, I’m all for it.”

“Same here,” said board member Doug Wolken of Paxton.

Kingren said Paxton’s volunteer firefighters suggested placing the flagpole by the schools on the city’s west side given their close proximity to the I-57 interchange. Having it on school grounds also makes “a lot of sense,” Kingren said, because “the kids could take pride in it” and the schools could even use it for “certain holidays.”

“It would do the image of the school and our community well,” Kingren said.

Kingren said the “possibilities are endless” for what could be built around the flagpole. Kingren said it has been suggested that a sidewalk be built leading to the massive structure — which would be 3 feet in diameter at its base and 15 to 20 inches in diameter at its top — and perhaps some type of memorial could also be built around it.

Kingren suggested that bricks memorializing veterans, police officers or firefighters, for example, could line the edges of the sidewalk, and they could be sold for $100 each to help raise some of the money needed to fund the project.

Kingren said the goal is to raise an initial $35,000 to $40,000 to buy a 150-foot flagpole with a 30-by-60-foot flag.  Additional funds will eventually also be needed to cover costs of replacing the flag a few times a year — which Kingren said could total as much as $8,000 annually.

A 12-member committee is working aggressively to raise the funds needed to erect the flagpole, Kingren said, adding that several thousand dollars had already been donated or pledged toward the effort. After it is installed, a smaller committee will work to “figure out a way to provide the money to change the flags” each year, Kingren said.

Kingren said he was not “wanting a lot out of the school system” — just permission to place the flagpole on school grounds and perhaps have the flagpole be covered under the district’s liability insurance.

Kingren said the flagpole would be made of “high-grade steel” and be “very strong,” capable of withstanding up to 90-mph winds with the 1,800-square-foot flag flying on it. The flagpole would actually be 165 feet long, but its first 15 feet would be buried and encased with concrete eight feet wide, Kingren said.

The flagpole would require “very little maintenance,” Kingren added. The company that sells the flagpole indicated that about the only maintenance that could be needed is taking down the flagpole “every 20 years” to repaint it, Kingren said.

Board member Steve Pacey of Paxton said he feels Kingren’s proposal is a “great idea” to make Paxton more visible to travelers on I-57, who might even want to stop to take selfies with the flag before perhaps going to a local restaurant to get something to eat.

The only potential issue, Pacey said, is if people are coming onto school district property to take photos during school hours “when we have kids out there for P.E. and other stuff” or “right after school when we have students out there practicing for sports.”

To help address such an issue, Dowling suggested that the path leading to the flagpole be built not from the school parking lot but instead from somewhere else.

Kingren said he thinks people will be “just fascinated” by the huge flag. Kingren said the flagpole would be some 50 feet taller than the Hardee’s restaurant sign and the PBL Panthers-themed water tower by I-57, while the flag would be comparable in size to a house.

“This would be an amazing thing if it ever flies,” Kingren said. “It gives you chills to see a flag that big.”

While Kingren and his firemen think the school district’s land by the interstate would make an “ideal” spot for the flagpole, he noted that it is not the only option.

“I don’t care where it goes as long as people come through this community and say, ‘Look at them people, how they’re supporting the U.S.A.,” Kingren said.

Donations toward the purchase of the flagpole and flag are being accepted at The Frederick Community Bank in downtown Paxton. The account is under the name of the nonprofit organization Paxton PRIDE to allow the donations to be tax-deductible. To donate, checks may be written to “Paxton PRIDE” with “Grand Old Flag” or simply “Flag” listed in the memo line.

As of Thursday, the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce had donated $500 and has committed $2,000 more, according to the bank’s vice president, Cody Kietzman, who serves as president of the chamber’s board of directors.

Kietzman said Paxton PRIDE has also agreed to donate, although the group has not determined how much. Two individuals in Paxton have also agreed to donate $1,000 each, and some others have made “soft commitments,” Kietzman said.


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