By Aila Boyd

The Buchanan Town Council heard ideas for and offered suggestions on a “flag policy” in order to ensure uniformity across the board at its meeting last Monday night.

Pictured is the flag pole where the United States flag normally flies at the Town Park.
Photo by Aila Boyd

The issue was first raised last fall by Mayor Craig Bryant.

Jason Tyree, town manager, explained that the town frequently receives questions about the flags that are flown at town properties and that having a finite policy to point to will be helpful for staff.

The United States flag is flown at the following town properties: Town Hall, Town Park, and Swinging Bridge Park. The Virginia state flag is also flown at Town Hall.

Aside from ensuring that the flag is “honored,” the policy will also help save the town money. The large flags, 10 feet by 15 feet, that hang on the flag pole at the Town Park cost between $600 to $1,000 due to the fact that the state requires that the flags are all-weather and have safety stitching.

“We will definitely save money,” Tyree said of the new policy. He added that one of the primary motivating factors behind the decision is to protect the taxpayers who ultimately pay for the flags.

The proposed policy dictates that “the flag should be displayed on all days, exception for the Town Park flag which due to the replacement cost may be holstered for the winter duration to ensure proper care of flag.”

“The winter months take a toll on it,” Tyree said. “Even the all-weather flags don’t hold up that well.”

When the flag pole was first installed at the Town Park, the flag flew 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Later on, members of the council decided to take the flag down during the winter months. Before that decision, the town was purchasing three flags per year— significantly more than the one flag per year that was needed subsequently.

The proposed policy will codify the procedure for holstering the flag at the Town Park during the winter months.

“Even though it’s a nice patriotic display, we also want to keep in mind citizens’ pocketbooks,” Tyree said.

Tyree explained that the flag that flies at the Town Park often times faces a battering because of the strong winds that blow downstream on the James River. The flag will also be taken down when severe weather, such as a hurricane, hits the area.

“A couple thousand dollars with a town this small can go a long way,” Tyree said.

Under the “respect for the flag” portion of the policy, it dictates that the flag should never touch anything beneath it and that once the flag is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be “destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

According to the policy, half-staff describes the “position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.”

The half-staff portion of the policy prescribes that flags should be flown at half-staff based on the direction of the president of the United States for days of national mourning or by the governor of Virginia. As for Memorial Day, according to the policy, the flags should be flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to peak for the remainder of the day.

Tyree will work to incorporate the input from council members and will present the revised policy at next month’s meeting, at which time a resolution to adopt it will be entertained.