Hartford Selectboard OKs first banner project honoring veterans

An example of the

An example of the "Hometown Heroes" banners proposed for downtown White River Junction, Vt., that was part of the Hartford Selectboard's agenda package. (Courtesy Town of Hartford)

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-08-2024 7:31 PM

HARTFORD — After a lengthier and more contentious process than its organizers expected, a project to honor Hartford veterans and first responders is soliciting applications after receiving a green light from the Selectboard last month.

The “Hartford Heroes” project will display banners on a dozen light poles in downtown White River Junction from Sept. 1 through October 30.

“We’re doing our best to honor veterans,” Hartford Heroes Committee Chairman Dennis Brown said last week. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve had.”

At the June 25 Selectboard meeting, the Hartford Heroes project, initially called Hometown Heroes, became the first set of banners approved under a new policy. The board approved the banners by a 4-2 vote, with member Mike Hoyt absent.

“Thank you for persevering,” board member Susan Buckholz said to the banner committee after the vote.

The policy, which the board approved at its June 4 meeting also by a 5-2 vote, allows as many 18 banners to be displayed for up to 60 days. An application including proposed banner design must be approved by the board.

The approval came months after the banner project was initially proposed, igniting debate among board members.

The project committee brought its final proposal to the board in March, asking that a dozen vinyl banners be displayed from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Each banner would include a photo of a military veteran or first responder along with that person’s dates of service.

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But disagreement among Selectboard members surfaced during the ensuing discussion, with Ki m Souza and Brandon Smith exp ressing opposition to the banners.

For Souza, the objection was aesthetic. Mass-produced vinyl banners didn’t seem to reflect the artistic and innovative spirit of White River Junction, she said. Smith balked at the message. He was concerned that the posters might unduly glorify war and preferred a shorter length of time for the display.

The March discussion devolved into accusations that those with concerns about the banners were opposed to honoring veterans. Selectboard Chairman Mike Hoyt tried to keep the discussion focused on the logistics of the project at hand. In the end, the decision on the project was tabled and the details hashed out in subsequent meetings.

Nearly two years ago, in late 2022, the Selectboard allocated roughly $2,000 for the project to display the banners honoring local veterans in downtown White River Junction.

The funds will be enough to cover the costs of the banners and their installation, Brown said. If enough applications are submitted, each banner could be double-sided, allowing the project to honor 24 veterans.

Each banner costs $105, plus an additional $70 for the hardware to attach it to the posts, Brown said in June.

The criteria for selecting which veterans appear on each banner will depend on how many applications the committee receives, Brown said.

“We’re brand new at this. But the committee’s intent is to have diversity, of race, ethnicity, gender, branch of service, and conflict,” Brown said, noting they aim to prioritize those killed or missing in service.

The project’s organizers are accepting nominations for honorees through Friday, July 12.

Questions about the Hartford Heroes banner project or requests for applications may be sent to the following email address: Heroes4Hartford@gmail.com.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.