Watertown applies for $100,000 for Flower statue project

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WATERTOWN — The last time that a vehicle smacked into one of the bollards protecting the Gov. Roswell P. Flower statue it damaged the cement barrier so much that it must be replaced.

City officials hope that they can prevent that from happening again by applying for $100,000 from a $10 million state downtown grant.

The lower Washington Street monument — designed by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and restored in 2003 — is a frequent victim of accidents. Every so often, a motorist rams a vehicle into the stone bollards that protect the historic sculpture.

On Dec. 13, a wine delivery truck nearly struck the 115-year-old Flower statue. One of the four bollards prevented the Montezuma Winery truck from colliding with the monument, but the stone barrier ended up with a large crack in it.

If funded, plans call for installing larger bollards in front and around the entire historic statue, said Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director.

“It was a close call,” he said. “The bollard stopped the vehicle from hitting the monument itself.”

The new, bigger bollards would contain a larger steel rod inside that would prevent harm to the monument, he said.

The project was suggested by a number of people who submitted the idea through the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative program when the public and developers were asked for input for the grant.

The people want to see the city do more to protect the monument, which was restored 15 years ago through a community fundraising campaign.

If funded now, the project would create a safer and more attractive gateway into Public Square and downtown, city officials believe.

Four years ago, the statue of the state’s only governor from Watertown underwent a thorough cleaning and rewaxing.

The statue project remains on a list of about 33 proposed projects — one of six public improvement projects — that would be funded by the DRI program.

About $1.5 million of streetscape improvements for a section of Franklin, Court and Massey streets, installing ornamental fencing around the Public Square fountain and a $1.5 million parking deck on Stone Street are among the other public improvement projects under consideration.

The Local Planning Committee will be responsible for putting together a preferred list of projects on March 1 before the state gives final approval on which proposals are funded.

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