SMYRNA, GA—A Smyrna-area tank top is under fire from local menswear advocates, who say the garment is so severely strained that it is in imminent danger of succumbing to explosive and potentially dangerous fabric-degradation-related rupture.

Smyrna, GA, city officials warn that an area tank top may experience "sudden and potentially dangerous fabric failure," unless steps are taken to overhaul its badly overtaxed stitching and load-bearing shoulder straps.

According to Municipal Sleeveless-Clothing Subcommittee co-chair Edwin Thurley, the tank top, a 1981 horizontally striped, blue-and-white "Kmart Casual" featuring a vest pocket and dual poly/cotton blend, was not designed to withstand the pressures currently being placed upon it by its owner, and may "burst without warning at virtually any moment."

"There is a growing number of citizens who are very concerned about the possible adverse effects that may be felt by our community should the tank top suddenly fail," Thurley said. "It is crucial that we resolve this pressing matter before, not after, a crisis stage is reached."

The embattled tank top has been the focus of negative public scrutiny for the last seven summers. Detractors point out that the top has been badly in need of an upgrade ever since falling into severe disrepair in the late '80s. Further, they say, while the shirt remains a size medium, the fleshy torso whose safe containment is the shirt's primary responsibility has expanded to the point of realistically requiring a size double extra-large.

"If crucial support is not provided for the tank top's badly overtaxed load-bearing shoulder straps within the next year, it is likely that the straps will suffer complete breakdown by the summer of 1999," Thurley said.

A bitter rivalry between city officials and the tank top's owner/wearer, Todd Fontaine of nearby Plovis, has only exacerbated the situation.

Said Fontaine: "Because of a recent exorbitant parking fine levied against me by city officials, I cannot allocate the necessary funding toward a tank-top replacement or upgrade at this time."

Thurley dismissed the claims as unfounded. "Fontaine knows darn well that it is illegal for him to park his pickup truck on his front lawn, yet he continues to do so out of stubbornness and spite," Thurley said. "He is protesting his recent $100 fine as a smokescreen to cover up the real issue: the gross endangerment of an innocent piece of clothing."

Even if Fontaine agrees to replace the tank top, there remains the issue of how to remove it without traumatizing the public. One solution to the problem has been proposed by the Atlanta engineering firm of Raemisch & Herzog. The firm's plan entails the construction of a brand-new, state-of-the-art girth-containment tank top, several sizes larger than the current one, directly over the original tank-top site.

"Once a larger top is secured around Mr. Fontaine's midsection, it will be safe to send in a team to cut away and remove the outdated, obsolete tank top within," Bob Kelcher, a Raemisch & Herzog spokesperson, told the Smyrna City Council Sunday.

Proponents of the Raemisch & Herzog plan note that it will save taxpayers a crucial 30 to 40 seconds of direct exposure to Fontaine's pale, shirtless upper body.

In an alternate bid, the local Target store is offering to provide Fontaine with suitable upper-body coverage at a storewide discount of 15 percent.

"With Target's latest line of designer men's casual tanks and tees," read an official statement in last Sunday's eight-page, full-color newspaper insert, "Fontaine can look forward to a Fashion-Filled Fall(TM) come September."

Despite the various proposals, Fontaine is refusing to remove the tank top, adamant that he has remained within the letter of the law.

"I believe I've got a right to keep wearing this tank top if I choose, no matter how much weight I may or may not have gained," he said. "I also believe I have a right to park my pick-up on my lawn and barbecue in my boxer shorts. Furthermore, I believe I'm going to have another helping of rhubarb pie."