Safeguards sought at Collier monument

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Collier's Flag Day Monument and Veterans Memorial are in a peaceful, semi-country setting with plants, flowers and fish ponds at the perimeter of an expansive green lawn near the municipal building on Hilltop Road.

Unfortunately, the site has been a target for vandals who have preyed on the ponds three times in recent years, dumping substances and rocks into the water and killing many fish. The most recent occurrence took place two months ago and led to the death of most of the fish.

The vandalism incidents have led to a call for additional security measures, including cameras, by Mark Lewis, a longtime Kirwan Heights resident, township advocate/volunteer and president of the 86-year-old Kirwan Heights Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Lewis helped construct the ponds and has often stocked them with expensive koi and food.

"The township is responsible for live animals. [Officials] are spending $3.3 million at the new park," he said at a recent meeting, referring to the more than 70 acres under development on Nike Site Road.

"I'm not looking to cause trouble, but I don't think [the incidents] should have been swept under the carpet," he added.

Manager Sal Sirabella said the township is not doing that, though he conceded a water sample taken from the most recent incident was never submitted for testing.

"We're not sure what happened," he said, adding that a pump was found to be broken.

Still, he pointed out that Collier has spent $8,000 recently to redo some elements at the memorial, including the cracked pavement apron and some bricks on the floor.

The pond was drained and refilled with fresh water. New pumps and heaters were installed, too.

"The fish are thriving," he said. But Mr. Lewis noted that the colorful koi, also known as Japanese carp, can live up to 100 years.

He believes additional cameras should be installed on light poles bordering the site's parking lot to deter any future vandalism.

Though the recent fish kill has led a few people to wonder whether the ponds are more trouble than they are worth, Commissioner Kay Downey-Clarke believes most residents like the ponds and take pleasure in them. Families often can be seen visiting the site, she said.

"I think it's a nice thing to keep up," she said, adding she believes residents enjoy watching the fish. "I personally think the problem is resolved."

Mr. Sirabella invited residents to donate koi and goldfish to the ponds.

The Flag Day Memorial and Veterans Memorial is an elaborate design of masonry, trees, flowers and rocks designed by Rennerdale resident Chris Nagel, a teacher at Bethel Park High School. Township volunteers and students from Mr. Nagel's classes helped build the ponds.

Collier is considered the birthplace of Flag Day. William T. Kerr, a lawyer from Rennerdale who lived in the township from 1911 to 1928, lobbied for a national Flag Day and was at President Harry S. Truman's side when the Flag Day bill was signed into law on Aug. 3, 1949.


Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer:


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