September 16, 2019

West Branch to honor service members


WEST BRANCH - The city of West Branch is launching a banner campaign to recognize past and present servicemen and women on the light poles downtown.

"Initially I was looking at other Project Rising Tide communities on their Facebook pages, going back to see what they had," City Manager Heather Grace said. "It was something on the city of Grayling's Facebook page that wasn't related to Rising Tide. I saw it, and I just loved the concept. I thought it was something that really seemed to hone in on the pride we have in our community for those that serve our country. It was something that I thought would be a great way to express our gratitude to those individuals."

Grace enlisted the help of the city's Grants, Public Safety & Community Revitalization Coordinator Kelli Collins to reach out to Grayling to get a better understanding of the program.

Collins said when the project was delegated to her, Grace thought it was a social media reach-out campaign, but she quickly realized it was something more. 

"She had suggested doing a series of posts recognizing the veterans in our area," Collins said.

Collins reached out to Grayling Main Street Coordinator Rae Gosling, who provided more information on the veterans banner program.

"She brought me all of their information and explained it all to me," Collins said. "They did a pilot program. They didn't know how it would be received. It was an overwhelming response. They expanded it from five to 80 because the community embraced it and wanted it so bad."

With the help of veteran and city council member Bill Ehinger, Collins was able to modify the program and develop some mockups.

Under the current plans approved unanimously by city council, the banners would go up beginning the last week of September and they would be displayed through Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

The banners in this program would be sponsored by community members. In the first year, there will be 25 one-year display sponsorships available for $100 and 25 two-year displays available for $200. In future years only two-year sponsorships will be available.

"We will fill the available slots on a first-in-first-filled basis following the lottery selection of applicants," the form reads.

The city was scheduled to begin accepting applications for 2019 beginning Jan. 14, 2019.

Collins said the largest expense to get the program started will be the hardware to display the banner flags.

"The first year it might or might not soak up our funds," she said. "After that, we will only be replacing 25 of them every year. And if someone wanted to renew, we wouldn't have to buy a new banner flag."

The flags are estimated to cost approximately $40. Any money left over after expenses will be donated to the Ogemaw County Historical & Genealogical Society, Ogemaw Veterans Museum and Ogemaw Veterans Alliance, and will also be used to replace aging American flags in downtown West Branch.

"There will be no money left in the pot at the end of the day, whatever money will be distributed to the other programs," Collins said.

While the preliminary plans limit the program to 50 flags, both Collins and Grace said it could grow beyond that.

The day after the approval of the Veterans Banner Program, the city of West Branch received its preliminary branding proposal through Project Rising Tide. In the proposal, one thing that was suggested was the utilization of banner flags between West Branch Township, the city and Ogemaw Township to help travelers better understand the geography of the West Branch area.

Grace said she would be reaching out to consultant Ben Muldrow and township officials to see if this project could be expanded to include the branding initiative.

Collins said the potential for the banner program is exciting.

"I think it was a great program," she said. "I am hoping the community does as well. I think it would be cool. Coming into town and for six weeks you have all those veterans displayed."

Grace and Collins believe the program will be a perfect fit for West Branch.

To pick up a copy of the application, visit West Branch City Hall or call Collins at 989-345-2727.


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