Fight for Damascus hor­net ends on ‘D’

Ge­or­gia Tech, which holds the rights, fi­nally said yes, but with strings

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY RACHEL CHASON rachel.chason@wash­post.com

A dis­pute be­tween a lo­cal high school and Ge­or­gia Tech means there won’t be a Swarmin’ Hor­net added to a wa­ter tower in Damascus, Md. — but the town has found an­other way to show pride in its school.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers are opt­ing for Plan D — paint­ing a large D in Damascus High School’s col­ors on the tower — in­stead of the yel­low-and-green hor­net mas­cot they had ini­tially planned. Paint­ing was set to be­gin this week­end.

“The D has been a sym­bol of the school for decades, and it res­onates with peo­ple through­out the com­mu­nity,” said Vic­tor Fur­nells, who cam­paigned for seven years to have the beloved mas­cot painted on the tower in the north­ern Mont­gomery County town of 15,000. “So I’m dis­ap­pointed in Ge­or­gia Tech’s po­si­tion, but this is a bet­ter res­o­lu­tion than we had ex­pected at this point.”

Af­ter a years-long cam­paign, Fur­nells and oth­ers had per­suaded the Wash­ing­ton Sub­ur­ban San­i­tary Com­mis­sion (WSSC) to paint a hor­net on the tower and raised the cash to pay for it.

But, when the high school made con­tact with Ge­or­gia Tech, which pro­tects its trade­mark of a sim­i­lar mas­cot, a yel­low jacket named Buzz, the plan seemed to be squashed. Ge­or­gia Tech ini­tially said the wa­ter tower plan would vi­o­late a le­gal agree­ment Mont­gomery County Pub­lic Schools signed with the univer­sity three years ago. Ge­or­gia Tech of­fi­cials then re­con­sid­ered, chang­ing their stance Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

They told Fur­nells, 54, and other Damascus com­mu­nity lead­ers that they would be al­lowed to use the hor­net logo on the 170-foot wa­ter tower. But there were stip­u­la­tions that the town could not meet, Fur­nells said.

The univer­sity said it would re­quire Damascus to in­clude a slo­gan that read, “Home of the swarmin’ hor­nets,” which was not part of the ini­tial de­sign and would have cost time and money — an ad­di­tional $2,000-$3,000 — to in­clude, Fur­nells said. Ne­go­ti­a­tions with lawyers would also have taken time that the school did not have be­cause paint­ing by the WSSC was sched­uled to be­gin this week­end and be com­pleted Mon­day, weather per­mit­ting.

“Can­didly, my thought is that they wanted to seem like the good guys,” Fur­nells said of Ge­or­gia Tech. “The agree­ment they sent to us with those stip­u­la­tions was never go­ing to hap­pen.”

Ge­or­gia Tech of­fi­cials did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Satur­day.

Fur­nells and the Damascus High School Ath­letic Booster Club met Thurs­day with the high school’s new prin­ci­pal, Casey Crouse, and de­cided to go ahead with the Damascus “D” sym­bol, which ap­pears on the ath­letic field and is worn on let­ter jack­ets and uni­forms.

The agree­ment that Ge­or­gia Tech has with Mont­gomery County Pub­lic Schools, which cov­ers uni­forms, hall­way signs and the school news­pa­per, but not the wa­ter tower, is among more than 380 agree­ments the univer­sity has with sec­ondary schools around the coun­try.

See­ing the D on the wa­ter tower will in­spire pride in the town and its high school, whose foot­ball team has won two straight Mary­land 3A state cham­pi­onships, Fur­nells said.

“We just wanted to pro­mote town and school spirit, then a large univer­sity wanted to flex its le­gal mus­cle on our com­mu­nity,” Fur­nells said.

“The agree­ment they sent to us with those stip­u­la­tions was never go­ing to hap­pen.” Vic­tor Fur­nells, Damascus High School booster, on terms set by Ge­or­gia Tech for a Mary­land town to paint a hor­net on its wa­ter tower

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