Randolph, Maine’s smallest town, was forced to pull down 20 American flags installed on utility poles in town because the cost of liability insurance was too expensive.

Volunteers with the Randolph Fire Association spent a year collecting $1,000 in donations to buy 20 American flags and mounting hardware to install them on utility poles throughout town, a tradition in many Maine communities, the Portland Press Herald reports.americanflags

“It makes the town look better,” fire captain Jim Kimball said, “and it shows we support the veterans. A lot of the veterans drive right through here.”

But town officials soon learned they did not own the power poles, and they did not have the requisite $5 million in insurance coverage required by Central Maine Power and FairPoint Communications – the companies that own the poles – to attach the flags.

The roughly $500 liability insurance rider necessary for the project was not included in the budget, and officials were forced to pull down the flags until they could come up with the cash, Live Insurance News reports.

“There’s no magic to the number ($5 million in liability coverage),” CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice told the Press Herald. “This is the figure that we came up with. It protects us and it protects towns.”

Rice said it’s against Maine law to attach anything to utility poles without prior permission and violators can be fined up to $100.

“The problem is that people attach things to utility poles … using nails, staples and screws,” she said. “Line workers need to work on poles from time to time. If they get a prick in their rubber gloves, that makes them useless and nonprotective. It could be lethal.”

Fortunately, Massachusetts insurance executive Roy Solomon contacted Kimball and sent an check for the $500 by express mail to cover the cost of the insurance rider after reading about the situation in an online insurance journal, the Kennebec Journal reports.

“It surprised the crap out of me,” Kimball told the news site. “It’s tough to believe there are still people like this out there.”

Soloman, president of Amity Insurance in North Quincy, explained in an email why he decided to take action.

“Because of the fear of being sued and the cost of litigation, everyone is afraid to do things that might get them sued,” he wrote. “People won’t stop and help someone in need because they’re afraid. People stopped getting involved when they see bad behavior. So when given the opportunity to make a difference, I see it as an opportunity and I’m grateful to be able to help.

“Please ask people to watch the movie ‘Pay it Forward,’ and follow the model.”

The movie centers on an 11-year-old boy who launches a goodwill project for his social studies class. The flags are expected to be flying high again by Saturday, according to the Journal.

The ordeal in Randolph is one of several examples of policies over-riding patriotism and common sense heading into the Fourth of July.

In Lexington, South Carolina, Michaelis Mattress Company owner Bob Michaelis installed 10 American flags in front of his store to celebrate the country’s independence and show his patriotism, only to face local police officials who pointed out the display violated a local flag ordinance, WISTV reports.

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“We got 10 flags up,” said Michaelis, a Marine who said he wanted to “show some appreciation to our troops.”

“I thought maybe it was about time we return to the patriotism in America,” he said. “There’s not enough of it. It seems to be lost.”

Michaelis said it wasn’t long before the Lexington Police Department was knocking at his door.

“I put them up yesterday and the city and the town of Lexington says they got to come down because there’s an ordinance in place,” Michaelis said, adding that he could face a fine for violating the ordinance.

The 1999 ordinance states that only three flags that are duplicates can be displayed in “restricted and intense development districts.”

Town administrator Britt Poole alleges that Michaelis was not asked to remove the flags, but rather informed of the ordinance asked to “call to see if something could be worked out.”

“At no time was a citation or even a warning ticket written,” Poole told the news site. “Just a request for a conversation.”

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Mayor Steve MacDougall also issued a statement that contends the chief of police visited Michaelis, but did not ask him to take down the flags. He said the ordinance was designed to limit “a negative situation” involving the Confederate flag years ago. He also insinuated that Michaelis was using the flags as a publicity stunt.

“We have members of our community that have fought, and died for our freedom to display this great symbol of our United States of America. Please, if the intent was to honor those than by all means do so but do not use this symbol as an advertising piece for your fourth of July sale,” MacDougall posted to Facebook.

“The Lexington store is the only store that has this display – if it were truly a display to ‘honor the troops’ it would be at all four stores.”

Regardless, the situation isn’t sitting well with locals.

“It’s a free country,” resident Carson Haloman told WISTV. “I think that anybody can fly as much flags as they want. I don’t think he should take it down. I think he has his own right to do whatever he wanted with the flags.”

Michaelis said that while he thinks “we should respect the ordinance” he has no immediate plans to remove the flags.

“I think a little lenience on special holidays would be great,” he said.