An anti-nuke sculpture on Main Street may not need the intensive testing that was originally planned for it.
“Chain Reaction” was on the chopping block last year after city officials determined that the sculpture — a gift to the city from Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad in the early ’90s — may pose a threat to public safety.
Sea air may be eroding the fiberglass chains that make up the mushroom cloud-shaped structure, they said. A city consultant, however, found the sculpture to be structurally sound.
Conrad’s son, Dave Conrad (Paul died in 2010), and local peace activist Jerry Rubin rallied in support of the sculpture, raising just over $100,000 — less than the potential cost to test and repair it, which city officials said could be as high as $400,000.
Still, City Council voted to accept the supporters’ money and agreed to pay the difference to repair it, whatever that may be. Then-Councilmember Bob Holbrook cast the lone dissenting vote, fearing that the sculpture would cost too much to upkeep over the years.
Since the council vote early last year, a fence has surrounded Chain Reaction, keeping people away until next steps are determined. Supporters of the sculpture — they call themselves the “Chain Gang” — have been restless, recently, to find out what City Hall plans to do. They want the fence removed. They don’t want the mushroom cap temporarily removed – something that city officials have said might be necessary in order to perform testing of the sculpture.
The Chain Gang may be in for a bunch of good news.
According to Dave Conrad, city officials are aiming to bring its plans in front of the Landmarks Commission on March 9. Because it is a registered landmark, the commission has to give its blessing for any alterations.
They also may not have to cut the cap off.
“It is our understanding that the City and the City’s consultants are agreeable to pursuing a next round of more complete testing that does not involve removal of the mushroom cap,” Conrad’s attorney Ken Kutcher said in a letter to city officials. “If structural concerns remain unanswered at that time, then the City’s next step would be the more costly, invasive and damaging step of removing the cap.”
Conrad said that his meeting with city officials was productive. He’s asked that city officials meet with him again to go over the results of the testing, assuming the commission agrees to let the testing go forward.
Kutcher further asked that if, after testing the sculpture, city officials still feel the cap needs to come off for more testing, they go back to the Landmarks Commission for a second approval.
He asked that these requests be written into the document set to go before the commission.
The Daily Press reached out to city officials who Conrad said were present at the meeting to verify the accuracy of his interpretation of City Hall’s plans but did not hear back by press time.
Conrad and Rubin are asking supporters of the sculpture to attend the March 9 meeting.