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Source: Great Falls Tribune
Date: November 3, 2011
Byline: Richard Ecke

Curb painting OK'd to continue for now

Painting of curbs in Great Falls will continue in the city for at least a few more days, and a brief controversy over use of the American flag appears to be finished.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's resolved," Great Falls Mayor Michael Winters said Thursday.

Several veterans at a City Commission meeting Tuesday night contended a curb-painting company was desecrating the American flag by not only painting street numbers on curbs but also a version of the country's flag in or near gutters.

Dean Scheller, a Kalispell area man who owns the Great Falls Youth Project, said his firm is continuing to paint address numbers on curbs around Great Falls until his permit runs out Sunday. But he said he plans to take out another city permit.

"We're just doing black (numbers) and white" background at the city's request, Scheller said.

In an interview Thursday, Scheller denied the red, white and blue image his young workers were placing on curbs was the American flag.

"There's no stars," he pointed out, and not the same number of bars, on the patriotic-looking decoration. In fact, he said a number of veterans have applauded the red, white and blue symbol he used, he said.

Even so, Scheller said Thursday he has agreed to strictly follow city code, which state that 5-inch-tall black address numbers can be placed on city curbs.

Scheller added the city code does not expressly prohibit patriotic-looking symbols, but he's not going to argue the point.

"There was no harm intended," Scheller said.

Winters said he did not think the facts were in dispute.

"Flag code does not allow him to paint the flag on the ground," Winters said. The mayor added he thinks it's good the business, Great Falls Youth Project, is providing jobs to young people.

"If he would just comply and tone it down, it wouldn't be a problem at all," Winters said.

Scheller has offered similar curb painting in the Flathead area, Butte and Missoula. He said the venture teaches kids about hard work and can help keep them out of trouble.

Scheller said he doesn't charge for the work, but takes donations. People often give $20 for the curb paintings, but it can be any amount, he said.

In any case, Scheller said he has plans for his workers for winter.

One idea would be to provide front-yard signs to homeowners up to 3 feet high that would contain a street number and an American flag, and could be placed in the property owner's front lawn. He said the suggested donation for the yard stake might be about $20.

Also, he said Great Falls Youth Project also might offer cedar signs with address numbers that can be screwed onto garages in alleys to identify the property. He said the suggested donation might be $30 or $40 for that merchandise.

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