Painters work on the 170-foot water tower that can be seen from the Damascus High School athletic field. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The proposal to add a Swarmin’ Hornet to the Damascus, Md., water tower isn’t dead yet.

Officials at Georgia Tech, who say painting the Damascus High School mascot on the tower would violate a legal agreement the school system signed with the university three years ago, have nevertheless invited proponents of the idea to present their request at the August meeting of Georgia Tech’s Licensing and Trademark Committee.

That meeting will happen well after the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the regional water utility, finishes painting the 170-foot tower this week.

The water utility had agreed to add the hornet as part of its regularly scheduled painting of the tower, provided that the town cover the cost.

But WSSC officials also had said that if there was no green light before the paint job was finished, there would be no hornet.

After an article about the situation was published in The Washington Post, the utility said it would consider allowing the painters back onto the tower if Georgia Tech — whose trademarked yellow jacket mascot Buzz bears a strong resemblance to the Swarmin’ Hornet — agreed to the project.


Buzz, the spirit logo for Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga. ( Georgia Institute of Technology )

The Damascus High School Swarmin’ Hornet ( Montgomery County Public School )

WSSC officials warned that it would cost even more to bring the painters back, however, and said project boosters would also have to cover that cost.

“The legal issues surrounding this request that would have to be addressed . . . cannot be satisfactorily disposed of in the limited time frame of the current repainting,” Georgia Tech vice president Patrick J. McKenna wrote in a letter this week to school system general counsel Josh Civin.

McKenna said granting an exception to the legal agreement with the school system — which covers uniforms, hallway signs and the school newspaper, not the water tower — could also impact some 380 other agreements the university has with secondary schools around the country.

Victor Furnells, the Damascus High parent who has led the campaign for a water tower logo since 2010, said he doesn’t know if the community can come up with additional money even if Georgia Tech says yes.

Boosters already donated $15,000 through a GoFundMe site that Furnells set up, to cover the stenciling, labor and other costs of including the logo in the scheduled repainting.

Officials say bringing the crew back will be more expensive. Among other things, they would have to redrain the 1.5 million gallons of water that is held in the tank, which can create exterior condensation that interferes with the paint job.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a happy ending,” Furnells said Wednesday.

For now, WSSC systems control division manager Karen Wright said, the town’s name will be painted in smaller-than usual lettering on the side of the tower that facesthe athletic field, leaving room for the hornet mascot that may or may not ever land there.