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Date of Issue: September 17, 2008

Flagpole controversy arises again after seven year no itch

Retired naval aviator Jim Kissick of Bradenton Beach says as long as he is around and has a say, there will never be a veterans memorial flag pole at Leffis Key.

The 2001 plan by Kissick and the Manatee Veterans Council to place a monument and flag pole at Leffis Key honoring Island veterans has long been buried and freeze-dried after the Audobon Society complained then that the flapping rope of the flag pole might frighten the migratory birds that inhabit the park.

Rather than accept a compromise location at a small hill about 100 yards south of Leffis Key, Kissick and the MVC walked away from the project.

Fast forward to 2008, after the Longboat Key Town Council rejected the idea of a wireless communications services device-don’t call it a cell tower-on the north end of the town.

Enter Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who thought the idea of a cell tower disguised as a flag pole atop the alternate hill proposed in 2001, made sense.

“My idea was so that the veterans could have a memorial and get some revenue to maintain the place. The technology has changed so much you could not recognize it as a cell tower,” Whitmore said. “I was just trying to do something nice for the veterans.”

No way at that location, said Kissick.

“They can put a monument anywhere they want as long as it’s not on that hill,” he said. “It would be a disgrace to all the veterans.”

Kissick still has harsh words about the Audbon Society and the politically correct stance of then Manatee County Administrator Ernie Padgett, who proposed the alternate site, complete with a parking lot, flood lights on the flag, a small path leading to the monument and flag pole that would be handicap accessible.

Whitmore said the rent from the cell tower would pay for all those amenities at the monument and maintenance costs.

“A disgrace,” responded Kissick.

Whitmore said the county could still find a place for a memorial for Island veterans, and it could still approve a cell tower at that location without the memorial.

“I was just trying to help out,” she said. While Kissick has an opinion, it’s not the final say on the issue. She’s given the proposal to the Veterans Council, she said.

Maybe he’s only one voice, replied Kissick, but he will still oppose any flag pole at the proposed location.

“This was just a simple flag a few feet high to honor Island veterans,” he said. That was the plan seven years ago and he’s sticking to his aviator guns.

“No way,” he said, when asked if he would support Whitmore’s idea.

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