The Batavia Township Board of Trustees recently met informally in a workshop session with members of a committee that is seeking to place a Gulf War era military memorial in the new township park.
The meeting was scheduled to work out some kinks in the plan, including just who was going to take care of the memorial, and just how much it was going to cost.
Neither element was clearly satisfied during the meeting.
“We always felt this would happen in phases,” said Ken Johnson of the memorial committee. “It depends on how the fund drive takes place. We heard the trustee board loud and clear; the main issue that is the deal killer is how this is maintained, who will be taking care of it for the long term. This is a deal killer for us also. We’ll not be together in perpetuity, but Batavia Township will.”
In a recent township meeting, the committee presented the township with a concept plan of the memorial, which was created after meeting and talking with local veterans. A centerpiece for the memorial is a donated humvee. However, the concept plan showed a greatly expanded memorial, incorporating a fountain, an eternal flame and amphitheater. The trustees, at the time, expressed reluctance to take over responsibility for caring for the memorial after it was completed. That proved a major point of discussion in the meeting, with neither side willing to accept responsibility for operating the memorial.
According to Johnson, a model plan would raise 20 percent more funds than the project would cost, which could be placed in a trust that will pay for the operation of the memorial. That being said, the township was unable to give an answer until they could actually see how much operation would run. The committee, however, was unable to present a budget until the trustees would provide direction on what to build.
"We can get the numbers, but we need a concept," said committee member Linda Fraley. "What is an acceptable concept? Then we can spend the time. Once we have the concept, the nitty gritty details can come."
"We agreed to give you the ground," said Trustee Lee Cornett. "Now, you're saying that the township has ownership. I don't understand what kind of funds we're committing to."
The committee, although happy with the plan, said that the trustees could add, modify or subtract from it as necessary.
Trustee Archie Wilson expressed great interest in keeping the memorial a top-notch facility in honor of the veterans, but expressed concern about some of the details, such as the estimated $20,000 a year it would cost to operate an eternal flame. Also, he said that there is no way the township can guarantee that future trustees would be willing to maintain the memorial.
"If we buy land, five years from now new trustees could say they're not in the land business," said Wilson. "I can't sit here and tell you what the next board will decide to do. We've had trustees in the past that wouldn't spend a nickel on a swing set. I think it should be connected to a veteran's organization that is committed to this for year after year."
The committee said that the plan as stands would first create an elaborate sidewalk entry to the humvee monument. Future phases would add in additional features, which could be modified by the trustees and put into motion when and if funding is available.
"If all you want is a sidewalk and humvee, we can come back with how much maintenance that will be," said Fraley. "If that's where the board wants to stay, that's OK. Before we put any more time into it, we need to know what this group wants."
Johnson said that the plan as presented would hopefully allow for a renewable revenue source that would allow the trustees to simply "write a check" to maintain and operate the memorial. Trustee Deborah Clepper, who is also a member of the memorial committee, said that she expects the veterans to make an effort to maintain the memorial.
"This is going to be grand enough that our veterans will be proud," said Clepper. "This is very detailed, it's something that I look to see this group of veterans step up to the plate and see that it continues."