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 is 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.