Cleaning it up and repainting it.
'Submarine Capital' Sign Surfaces With New Look
Weather gives Navy crew chance to paint vandalized landmark
By Katie Warchut
Published on 11/1/2006
Groton -- They were afraid they'd have to wait until spring. But a burst of warmth on the last day of October meant the silhouette of the USS Nautilus could be revived.
Chief Kermit Franklin, with help from Navy workers, gave the submarine-shaped sign along Interstate 95 a slightly new look Tuesday: slick black paint.
In 2004, Franklin, who is assigned to the USS Virginia, painted the sign that dubs Groton “The Submarine Capital of the World.”
He had to wait for the temperature to climb above 60 degrees to do the job again, and on Tuesday he and his crew were able to do it as cars passing by Exit 85 honked in support.
The 40-foot-long sign was vandalized earlier this month, painted yellow and covered with an obscenity and anti-war slogan. A New London artist, William MacDonald Love, was charged with first-degree criminal mischief and breach of peace in connection with the incident.
“I just had to go out there and paint it again,” Franklin said. “I don't have anything against any war protesters ... but when they vandalized it, it crosses the line.”
At a meeting last week, officials from the Naval Submarine Base, the town and the Groton Business Association decided to repaint the sign. Cleanup efforts had damaged the original paint surface and left behind a yellow tinge, according to Groton Town Manager Mark R. Oefinger.
They picked black to be more visible in the daylight, and agreed to white, reflective lettering, similar to a road sign, to be visible at night.
Navy spokesman Chris Zendan noted that black is the color of an actual submarine.
The total cost to restore the sign is estimated at about $3,000 to $3,500, much of which will be donated, Oefinger said. The paint was donated by Gary Merchant, of Warner & Sullivan in New London, Franklin said, while the city of Groton donated scaffolding and a generator to use with the compressor.
Over the next few weeks, the town will consider additional improvements at the sign, including lighting, fencing and landscaping to beautify and add security, Oefinger said.
The sign was installed in the 1960s by the then-Groton Chamber of Commerce. During the 1980s, it was a frequent victim of vandalism, and Electric Boat workers and sailors provided labor to repaint it as needed.
Originally the sign was lighted, but it is believed the lighting was disconnected following construction of the second span of the Gold Star Bridge in the early 1970s.
In the 1990s, the town secured permits to maintain the sign from the state Department of Transportation because there was no official owner after the demise of the Groton Chamber of Commerce.
In 2004, the Lafayette-class submarine sign, which was no longer part of the base's arsenal, was replaced with a silhouette of the Nautilus, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first nuclear-powered submarine.
Tommy Wilson, part of Franklin's group, was glad the Navy could restore a source of pride so quickly.
“This has been up here for years,” Wilson said, shaking his head. “It just wasn't their property to deface.”
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