Thursday, May 17, 2012
Cross in Middleboro, MA since 1959 now offends an unnamed lawyer
My final words to the unnamed Boston lawyer who made a stink about the cross in Middleboro
- Get a life.
By JANE LOPES - Middleboro Gazette Editor
MIDDLEBORO — It's 12 feet high by 7 feet wide, but it's likely that few people who drive by pay much attention.
The brick cross was erected in 1959 by the Kiwanis Club on a small triangle of land where one takes a right turn to head toward Middleboro center near the Trucchi's shopping center. The triangle and the cross have benefited from the ministrations of club members and other local organizations over the years, but the cross — which exhorts passersby to "worship" any way they choose, according to current Kiwanis President Robert Kinney — is in a fairly bedraggled state. Recently, someone stole the "worship" message from one side, presumably to obtain the copper backing.
Meanwhile, a Boston attorney passing through town around Christmas time last year noticed the cross and protested to the state Department of Transportation on the grounds that the cross violates the "separation of church and state" guarantee in the Constitution. MassDOT investigated and determined that all but three feet of one arm of the cross sits on town land. The attorney who complained to the state has been in touch with Kiwanis officials, but has taken no legal action to date.
Mr. Kinney appeared before the selectmen Monday night looking for support, which he received, for a plan to beautify the traffic triangle and preserve the cross.
"It's sitting there and looking pretty bad," Mr. Kinney said of the cross, which is believed to be one of a kind in terms of its design and construction. "The triangle it's on is really shabby."
In recent years, Mr. Kinney said he has tried to spruce up the area by fertilizing the grass and with plantings. But the salt spread during the winter on the nearby state highway, Rte. 28, damages the vegetation.
Mr. Kinney said he has some ideas about long-term preservation of what is, in his view and that of others, an historic landmark. He said the state has an "adopt a visibility" program where it assists local groups and businesses to preserve such landmarks. The care and maintenance of the triangle and the cross could be an Eagle Scout project, he said, or a project for all the town's service clubs.
Chairman of Selectmen Al Rullo wondered whether it makes sense to invest a significant amount of time and money in the project given the potential legal issues.
"This is going to be some legal issue," he said. "It's like a tree hanging over a property line. If the state decides they can't have that on state property ... I assume it can't be moved."
Mr. Kinney said he believes that is unlikely. He said pending resolution of the legal issues, he would at least like to "put some plants around short term and see what happens."
Selectman Stephen Spataro made a motion for the selectmen to support whatever efforts the Kiwanis Club or other groups undertake, and to offer guidance from the town's DPW.
"That's a landmark, for sure," he said.
His colleagues voted in favor of the motion.