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Time tough to tell
One city clock trails others on tower
clock tower 1 jd
The clock on the southeast face of Cumming City Hall is about 40 minutes behind the clocks on the other three sides.

Time is not on Cumming's side. Well, its southeast side, that is.

For more than two weeks, one of the four clocks atop Cumming City Hall has been running up to 40 minutes behind.

The unusual time lag, the first in at least five years, surprised some city officials. The extent and cost of repairs are not certain, but it will be next week at the earliest before the clock is fixed.

“I hadn’t even noticed it,” said City Administrator Gerald Blackburn, prior to the city’s Tuesday council meeting.

Blackburn wasn’t alone. No one in the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, which directly faces the slow clock, had noticed the time lapse, nor had Cumming Utilities Director Jon Heard.

“That’s unusual, because that clock is set by the atomic clock,” said Heard, adding that he was fascinated by the technology. “It’s tied to a GPS and satellite receiver that receives the time.”

The slow clock, located above the city’s main entrance, is not the master clock.

Had it been the master clock, Blackburn said Wednesday morning, the repair could have been “a mess.”

“There’s one clock that’s the main clock," he said. "And if the one clock gives trouble, all four of them do. But this one is what you call a slave clock, which should be easy to fix."

The French-made Verdin clocks have been part of City Hall since the facility was built in 2002. Chad Faulkner, an information technology specialist with the city, has been charged with clock supervision from the get-go.

“It’s six buttons and one key, that’s all it takes to run the thing, so it’s no big deal,” Faulkner said of the daily operation.

“If it’s something where all the clocks are off by one hour or a few minutes, I can handle that," he said. "But if it’s one individual clock, that’s a problem.”

When such a problem comes up, Faulkner calls Jerry Knight.

“People who work on these kinds of clocks ... you don’t find them on every street corner,” Faulkner said. “He takes care of the Southeast.”

Knight is scheduled to look at the clock Tuesday.

“If he has the correct parts, he will have it fixed,” Faulkner said. "If not, he’ll probably have to order the parts.

"I’m not sure that’s something he carries around with him. It may not need anything, it may just need some sort of adjustment.”

Faulkner said the warrantee on the clocks has expired. He did not know how much, if anything, repairs would cost. Service could also be part of the city’s regular contract with Knight.

All four clocks have been in synch for a long time, though Faulkner recalled how the parts were too small to support the hands when the clocks were first added to the building.

“In the beginning, it seemed like every other week they were off, and they were out working on it," he said.

"They came back and put completely new movements on it, which were quite a bit larger. We really haven’t had a problem with it since. It’s been pretty solid.”