ORANGE CITY WONDERS FOR WHOM THE BELL (RANDOMLY) TOLLS
Published by Daytona Beach News-Journal on February 15, 1999.
ORANGE CITY -- File it in the "be careful what you wish for" department.
Iris Scheff, a city employee, was standing on the steps of City Hall around 6 p.m. last week when the bell in the building's cupola exploded into a tumultuous tintinnabulation.
The bell pealed out ring after ring, continuing for several minutes.
"After it finished," Scheff said, "I thought, I wish I had counted. I would have liked to have known how many rings.
"Lo and behold, it started again."
This time, it rang 472 times.
"I was wondering if people were going to start showing up for a town meeting," Scheff said jokingly.
The bell has been acting wacky for the last year and a half, said Orange City resident Al Blue, who approached the City Council about the situation at its last meeting.
"It's an ongoing problem," he said. "It starts on its own volition. After it goes berserk, then it doesn't ring at all for some number of days or weeks."
When the bell, audible blocks away, tried to set its own world record last week, it was finally stopped by city firefighters, who used a ladder to get to the timepiece.
The problem, Blue said, is that nobody is actually responsible for fixing the bell when it goes clapper-happy. "There's nobody to contact when it occurs," he said.
The bell is supposed to ring out the number of the hour on the hour and ring once on the half hour. When things go haywire, it lets out a random number of rings whenever it takes the notion.
Residents have noticed the clock slipping for a while, but last week's display was unusual.
The city has been looking at fixing the bell for more than a year, City Manager Bruce Behrens said. Options are somewhat limited, though, because of City Hall's status as a registered historical site.
"(The bell's) an historic asset to the city and it provides the ambience of a quaint community," Blue said. "It provides the atmosphere and quaintness for the city."
Although officials considered upgrading the bell's inner workings to an electronic system, experts have recommended retaining and repairing the original system.
The bell was installed when City Hall was built in 1929. "It's an old bell," Behrens said. "It's an old system."
Blue said he and a friend who has experience at bell repair have volunteered to help fix the bell an offer which Behrens said the city is considering. But the duo aren't promising anything yet, since neither they nor city officials have actually looked at the workings of the bell.