Should Hatboro Allow Dismantling of 200-Year-Old Clock?
Hatboro has received state funding to cover the 100 hours required to take apart and diagnose fixes for the clock tower atop borough hall, but fundraising is ongoing to repair, reassemble it.
At a minimum, the 200-year-old clock tower perched above the Hatboro municipal building will require 291 hours of work to clean, repair, restore and replace any parts not in working order.
But, to pinpoint with better preciseness exactly what is needed to once again move the hands of time, antique clock restoration expert Keith Winship of Winships’ Pieces of Time said he first must take the historic clock apart, photograph and document each and every piece to determine exactly what parts are needed and exactly how much the labor and materials will cost.
“It’s very difficult to say exactly what we’re going to do without taking the clock apart,” Winship told the council on Monday night. “I can’t just look at what’s up there and say, ‘this is exactly what I’m going to have to do with it.’ ”
To date, the monies raised through a $5,000 state grant and $5,000 local match would only cover the initial phase – that of devising a restoration plan. Officials pointed out that if Winship removes the clock, diagnoses the needed fixes and the project’s funding stream dries up, the clock could potentially be in Winships’ Hatboro shop without funding for it to be fixed or at least reinstalled to its present state.
Should Hatboro permit the dismantling of its 200-year-old clock tower without the funding in hand to restore and reassemble it?
“Are we just going to throw it in a box like the first clock at Independence Hall and leave it there?” Hatboro resident Ron Battis said, referring to a similar clock designed by the same clockmaker, Isaiah Lukens, in 1839.
Winship estimated that the clock’s disassembly would take about 100 hours and at his $100 per hour rate that would mean the $10,000 state and local match would cover the clock’s dismantling, but not its estimated $25,000 in repairs and reassembly. He said that just reinstalling the clock – without fixing it – would take another 20 to 30 hours, meaning at a minimum, $3,000 would be needed to have the clock reassembled to its current state.
Councilwoman Patty Fleming, who sits on a committee established for the clock tower’s preservation, said the Millbrook Society has secured $1,500 more beyond the $5,000 needed for the grant match. Fundraising for the roughly $35,000 project is ongoing, she added.
Council President John Zygmont, along with several other council members, expressed concern about removing the clock from its tower, particularly without having enough money to complete necessary repairs and reassembly.
“I don’t think there’s a person up here that doesn’t want to see the clock done,” Zygmont said, adding that the borough does not have money to fund the project. “Are we going to pay the police or are we going to do the clock? Those are the decisions we need to make.”
Despite the “skepticism” that the clock restoration enthusiasts’ efforts would not cost Hatboro money, Zygmont authorized borough attorney Christen Pionzio to devise a contract for services, as well as an indemnification agreement and insurance provisions.
“We don’t have an actionable item until we have some kind of agreement,” Zygmont said.
According to guidelines set by the state grant, the first phase of the project – devising a restoration plan – must begin by March 31 and conclude by March 31, 2014.
Hatboro business owner Charles Roche’, who led the charge to restore the clock back in 2008, said his hope has always been to raise $50,000, earmarking $35,000 for restoration and the remaining money to create a trust to ensure the clock is maintained for the next 100 years.
“I have absolute faith that we can find sourcing necessary to fund this,” Roche’ told the council. “(The project) is probably as close to success or failure as it’s ever been.”