Murray hears conflicting guidance whether it can lower flag for 10 men killed in WWII

Photo by Tom Rivers: Local veterans in the Honor Guard stand at attention during Saturday’s rededication of the Fancher monument on Route 31. The monument was originally dedicated on Aug. 14, 1949 for 10 men from the Fancher community who were killed in World War II. The flagpole includes the American flag and a commemorative World War II flag.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2021 at 5:23 pm

MURRAY – Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio wants to make it an annual observance in Murray, to have the American flag lowered for 10 days beginning on Aug. 14 in recognition of 10 men from the Fancher community who were killed in World War II.

There is a monument for those men in Fancher on the curve at Route 31. The monument is a four-sided clock and includes in plaque in memory of John Christopher, Joseph Christopher, Cosmo Coccitti, John Kettle, Jr., Leonard Licursi, Martin Licursi, Richard Merritt, Camille Nenni, Floyd Valentine and Richard Vendetta.

Sidonio on Monday proposed the flags be lowered at the monument and the Murray town buildings for 10 days every Aug. 14. The Town Board was in favor of declaring Aug. 14 “Fancher Monument Memorial Day.” However, two of the board members believed only the governor and U.S. president have the authority to order the flag to be lowered.

The Town Board on Monday decided to instead have a World War II flag be displayed on Aug. 14 and then for the following 10 days each year.

The flag pole at the monument also will include a POW-MIA flag because the bodies of three of the soldiers were never recovered. Those men include Joseph F. Christopher, Cosmo P. Coccitti and Floyd M. Valentine.

Sidonio, however, reached out to the Association of Towns of New York State and was advised today by general counsel, Lori Mithen-Demasi, that a town can fly a flag “at less than full-staff to commemorate the death of town residents that occurred during a time of war.”

Sidonio said he will seek to amend the resolution passed on Monday to allow Murray to lower the American flag every Aug. 14 for 10 days.

In other action during Monday’s Town Board meeting:

• Louise Passarell told the board she is resigning due a difficult working relationship with Sidonio. Passarell has worked for Murray the past 13 years. She was the town assessor, secretary to the Highway Department and a water billing clerk.

“This has become a very hostile place to work,” she told the board before walking out of the meeting. “I choose not to work here anymore.”

Her resignation was accepted by the five board members – Sidonio, Randy Bower, Michael Mele, Paul Hendel and Lloyd Christ.

Sidonio, who has been town supervisor since Jan. 1, 2020, acknowledged that Passarell has been vocal in backing his opponents in local elections. He said he has a good working relationship with nearly all local community leaders.

Passarell has faulted Sidonio in the past for undermining the morale of highway workers with frequent criticism, especially about water leaks, and for failing to credit the workers when they find and fix the leaks.

• The board appointed Elaine Berg to fill a vacancy on the Planning Board with the term ending Dec. 31, 2021.

• Ron Vendetti, former code enforcement officer, asked the board if there has been any progress on updating a law on renewable energy projects. The board last month approved a 12-month moratorium on solar and wind energy applications in the town.

Vendetti offered to assist in writing an updated law. Sidonio said town officials will be working on the law. Vendetti said the law could be updated without taking 12 months.

• Councilman Hendel recommended the town use some of its American Rescue Plan funds to put in new video conferencing equipment for the town’s main meeting room. That could allow some board members to attend meetings virtually and vote when they are out of town.

The other board members liked the idea of upgrading the videoconferencing capabilities at the Town Hall and want to see cost estimates for the equipment, which should also include a stronger WiFi signal.