Un-civil war in Hightstown

The charming Mercer County, NJ borough of Hightstown – home of the posh Peddie School – is at war over whether it’s disrespectful to decorate a war monument for the holidays.

Following an earlier presentation by a single member of Hightstown’s Historic Preservation Commission, the borough council on November 7 unanimously approved a plan to string lights on the recently restored Soldiers Monument at Stockton Street and Rogers Avenue, a landmark in the heart of town.

Turns out the full preservation commission had actually rejected the idea; the other eight members have now resigned. And on Monday, amid an outcry from veterans and other critics, a borough councilwoman who planned to ask for a reconsideration of the plan fell ill an hour before a meeting of the body, which opted to go forward.

The monument is a 23-foot, Italian marble obelisk honoring 35 local Civil War casualties. Erected in 1875, it had never been properly cleaned (speaking of disrespect) until earlier this year.

A company called USCleanBlast.com used dry ice to remove more than a century of soot and other grime. The $7,500 effort was part of a $1.7 million streetscape improvement project paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the much-maligned federal stimulus program).

The “Lights on the Square” celebration, featuring what the borough website calls a "Tree Lighting and United States Military Tribute," is set for 8:30 tonight.

Right after the Santa Parade.