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Subject of U.S. flag banners to be revisited at Monday council meeting

FORT KENT, Maine — The woman who donated $15,000 of her own money for U.S. flag banners that have adorned street light poles for several years in Fort Kent has asked to meet Monday with the town council that this summer voted to not fly them anymore.

Greta Laferriere Martin, the Fort Kent native behind the effort to purchase the banners back in 2011, told town manager Donald Guimond that she plans to attend Monday’s regular bi-monthly meeting of the council and asked that the issue be placed on the meeting agenda. Martin said she will travel from her New Jersey home to attend the meeting, weather permitting.

Martin helped secure $5,000 in donations and used $15,000 of her own money to buy the 135 banners and brackets to hold the banners in place in 2011, as a way to show patriotism in her hometown 10 years after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The banners, have flown every summer since 2011, with public works employees removing them each fall to avoid damage to them during the harsh winter months.

But the councilors voted unanimously at a July 10, 2017, meeting, not to rehang the banners, because they were not printed in mirror image on each side, causing them to hang incorrectly on the poles, according to Councilor Joey Ouellette.

Ouellette, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1994-1998 brought the issue to the attention of his fellow council members during the July meeting.

“It’s dishonoring to the flag and our country and what it stands for,” Ouellette said. “People gave their lives for it and displaying [the flag] incorrectly is dishonoring them as well.”

Fort Kent resident Phil Soucy, who helped Martin with her banner fundraising effort, said on Friday that he will be unable to attend Monday’s council meeting, but he is disappointed in the council’s decision not to rehang the flag banners.

Soucy said he would like to see the issue of whether to rehang the flag banners go to a referendum vote, so that residents could decide the banners’ fate.

“I think it’s unfair. People in the town contributed their own money; they paid for these banners. It didn’t cost the town a thing,” he said.

His wife Charlene Soucy said she feels the majority of people in town support hanging the banners, and that the council members missed the mark in deciding to permanently remove them.

“They are being overly fussy,” she said. “It’s about love of country, and being aware of how lucky we are to be in this country.”

Both Soucy’s also pointed out that actual U.S. flags are not at issue, but banners depicting flags.

Martin Kline American Legion Post 133 Commander Wayne Caron said on Friday that he agrees with the council’s decision not to rehang the misprinted banners.

“Half of them are OK; the other half are not. It really doesn’t look right and a lot of people have commented on that too, before (Ouellette) talked about it,” he said. “They’re still flags and still have to be flown the right way if they represent the flag.”

Martin did not return a request for comment on Friday.

The town council meeting is open to the public and begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at the Fort Kent Municipal Building.

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