SWANVILLE, Maine — On Flag Day, some Maine communities make sure to have their streets lined with bright American flags that fly proudly on the breeze.
But that’s not the case in Swanville, according to Selectman Brian Thompson, who said recently that he is “sickened” that residents voted down a request at this March’s annual town meeting to spend $1,500 on 20 flags and a new flagpole for the town office.
“I’m appalled at the citizens of Swanville for not raising money to put flags out for our veterans,” Thompson said. “I’ve just been thinking about it and thinking about it. I ride my motorcycle a lot. I go through all these other towns around us, where there are many, many flags flying. And I’m just appalled and sickened that Swanville doesn’t.”
He said that about 40 people came to the March meeting out of roughly 1,200 residents. After a small discussion on the proposal, Swanville voters turned it down, according to Town Clerk Helen Christianson.
She said the town has a “few old flags” that fly all summer, placed on different poles around the town. There is a private effort afoot to raise money through donations to purchase flags. So far, the flag fund at the town office has $60, thanks mostly to the donations of one local woman Christianson did not want to identify.
“Maybe more people will say, ‘That’s a great idea,’” she said. “Maybe some of the people that have a little extra can come and donate.”
But that, according to other local officials, might be overly optimistic. Charles Miklovich serves on the Swanville Budget Committee. He said that in the last few years, residents have voted down all municipal requests for social service agencies including the Waldo County YMCA and organizations like the Swan Lake Association.
“It just comes down to money,” he said. “The school budget just goes up and up. We have no industry in Swanville … We’re hurting a lot here. We’d like to do flags, but there’s no money.”
After Swanville voters first turned down more than $20,000 in funding requests in March 2010, officials said that people who wished to donate individually could send money in with their property taxes.
About $1,300 was donated by individuals to various social service agencies during the following year.
Terry Sawyer, who also serves on the budget committee, said the small town is just strapped for cash.
“People said they could not afford for the tax rate to go up and couldn’t afford to pay new taxes. Our road account got axed, too,” he recalled of the annual town meeting. “Everybody has to live within their budget.”
He said he heard at the meeting that some folks were interested in donating a flagpole and money for flags.
“I think it’s going to happen,” Sawyer said.
But not soon enough for people like Thompson.
“I didn’t serve in the service. My father did and my brother did,” he said. “I’m a proud patriot … it touches a special place in my heart.”