ANNAPOLIS – Less than three weeks after its much ballyhooed unveiling, Maryland’s millennium countdown clock isn’t counting as state officials decide on a new location for the modern- looking time keeper.
The 9-foot-tall digital clock was removed Monday from its spot on Lawyer’s Mall in front of the State House after Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and others criticized it for being incompatible with surrounding historic structures.
“Aesthetically, the … location is a disaster,” Miller said. “As we honor the millennium, let us not dishonor … our colonial ancestors.”
When operating, the $16,000 clock, constructed by Triangle Sign & Service in Baltimore, resembles a scoreboard, digitally displaying the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until the next millennium.
Steve Altshuler of Triangle said he “kind of had a gut feeling” there would be a negative reaction to the clock.
“Annapolis is a very touchy area because of its historical nature,” Altshuler said. “We did our best to work with the commission to come up with something to blend in.”
But Miller, a Prince George’s Democrat, said the clock and the State House represent “two different worlds that don’t mix.” The cornerstone for the State House was laid in 1772, 78 years after Maryland’s capital was moved from St. Mary’s City to Annapolis.
The clock was unveiled Sept. 2 by former Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer, chairman of the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000, and other commission members. Schaefer said he was not upset with the clock’s removal.
“As soon as Miller said we should move it, we said we would take it down,” Schaefer said.
Before the clock was erected, Schaefer said the commission checked with every state agency to see if there would be problems with placing it in front of the State House. He said he received no objections.
But Schaefer and other commissioners said they did not realize they needed to clear the decision with the State House Trust.
The trust is made up of the governor, Senate president and House speaker and is meant to protect the integrity and history of the grounds, Miller said. He said he was only alerted to the location of the clock belatedly, after complaints drifted in from residents and tourists.
The State House location was never intended as a permanent spot for the clock, said Louise Hayman, executive director for the commission. Members planned to take the clock down after the millennium and donate it as a scoreboard or for a similar purpose to a group or school in the state, she said. “The idea is to leave behind a legacy.”
Many suggestions have been made for a new location, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s proposal to make it mobile, moving it to different sites and events across the state. Miller suggested Baltimore-Washington International Airport or the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building; Schaefer suggested nearby St. John’s College.
“We’ll find a place for it,” Schaefer said.
Hayman said she hoped to have a new home for the clock, being stored in Triangle’s shop, before the name of a commission mascot is announced Oct. 7. -30-