Veterans memorial marches forward

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By April Wright, Reporter

After months of planning, designing, fundraising and overcoming challenges regarding the placement of the veterans monument, Galax City Council approved a resolution Monday to award an architectural and engineering services contract to Doug Williams of Galax, putting the city one step closer to building the Twin County Veterans Memorial.

In October 2008, council approved the site for the veterans' memorial on the grounds of the Galax Public Library and decided to move forward with securing the services of a consulting engineer.

Williams' services will include schematic design, final design, preparation of bid documents, bidding, negotiation and construction administration. The process will permit preliminary construction cost estimates and accommodate a phased construction schedule, depending on the total project costs.

The architectural and engineering services also includes a site survey and analysis of the construction site.

The memorial was designed by Elk Creek artist Todd Price, who will work in collaboration with Williams and the engineering team.

“I appreciate the fact that Todd Price will continue to be involved in the technical plans for the memorial,” said council member Sharon Plichta, a Vietnam War veteran and chair of the veterans' memorial fundraising effort. “This will ensure that Todd's original concept will be followed as much as is technically possible.”

Plichta and her husband Frank, also a veteran, hope to have the money raised and the monument constructed within two years, he told The Gazette in October 2008. But the Plichtas are highly anticipating the funds and the construction at a sooner date for the sake of aging World War II veterans.

The plans include a 3,600-square-foot memorial with three large granite monuments — one in memory of those who served, one to honor those serving now and one to remember the prisoners of war and those missing in action; a three-tiered water fountain and reflecting pool; six black granite pillars to represent each military branch; a large bronze globe; and a symbolic empty granite chair in the “POW/MIA” section to honor those who never came home.

“Our community is one more step closer to seeing the veterans memorial begin to take shape and honor all veterans who have contributed to the freedoms we hold dear to our hearts,” said Roger Jennings, commander of the American Legion Post 245.

This memorial will provide local veterans organizations a place to gather on special days to honor and remember all who have fought for their country, said Frank Sayers, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 710.

“Our community has long needed a place of memory and reflection to help teach the next generation what our soldiers, sailors, airman and coast guardsmen have contributed to the great country in which we live,” said Ed Pasley, commander of the local Disabled Veterans Post.

The Plichtas, volunteers and other veterans have been working to raise at least $300,000 to fund the construction of the veterans' memorial.

Sharon Plichta said the fundraising efforts to construct the memorial depend on the families of veterans to order granite pavers to recognize the contributions of their family members who served in the military.

Granite pavers are one way that each local area veteran can be a part of this memorial. The pavers will line the walkway in and around the monuments and include the name and information for those who serve or have served in the military, both living and deceased.

Information about how to order granite pavers is located on the memorial's Web site — twincountyveteransmemorial.com.

The Veterans Memorial Fund is a project supported by all veterans organizations and is administered by the American Legion Post 245, a nonprofit organization.

Contributions for the construction of the veterans memorial may be sent to the Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1023, Galax, Va. 24333.

All contributions to the fund are tax-deductible.

For more information or to order a granite, send an e-mail to veteransmemorial@earthlink.net or call 238-9161.

In other action council:

• adopted an Emergency Operations Plan in accordance with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Council also named the city manager as the emergency operations director.

Council adopted resolutions for the EOP and the National Incident Management System for the city and its emergency services providers.

• approved the Galax Planning Commission's recommendation to allow Galax residents James and Karen Williams to move forward with plans to subdivide a parcel along Stanley Drive.

The Williamses intend to develop another duplex on the property, as well as a spec house.

The Galax Planning Commission held a public hearing on Jan. 7 to consider the request from the Williamses. James Williams said at the hearing that the units would not be priced toward low-income or subsidized housing.

No citizens spoke on the opposition of the project.

The property is zoned R-2 medium density. Rezoning is not required.

• adopted a resolution to appropriate funds to acquire a parcel of land adjacent to the Hampton property in West Galax in cooperation with Grayson County. The cost is $20,250, and the title of the property would be place in the name of Galax Future, Inc.

The property is divided by the city/county boundary, which roughly cuts it in half.

The cost of the property is shared with Grayson County and will provide a better commercial entrance to the larger Hampton property industrial site, said City Manager Keith Holland.

• authorized the city manager to execute a contract with Spectrum Design of Roanoke for design services, bid document preparation, bidding assistance and construction administration services on the former Parsons building, across from the Galax Municipal Building on East Grayson Street, for use as a downtown visitors' center.

Total expense to the city for the project, with anticipated historic tax credits, is estimated at $200,000.

• approved a resolution to verify the action city council took Nov. 10, 2008, to give the city manager authority to execute a contract between the city and South End Construction for the renovation work for Chestnut Creek School of the Arts.

A pre-construction meeting was held on Jan. 6.

Holland said construction was scheduled to begin Monday.

“This is going to be a tremendously successful project, a unique project for the state and will be a good thing for the city,” said Mayor C.M. Mitchell.

• adopted several items required in order for the city to receive its Department of Housing and Community Development grant of $300,000 for the broadband extension.

• approved acquisition of property 255 Bedsaul Road. The land, near the city's closed landfill, complies with the Department of Environmental Quality, said Mitchell. The city will acquire 2.4 acres of land from owner Martin Estrada to aid in monitoring groundwater contamination from the closed landfill.

• heard from John Aldridge of Brown Edwards & Company about the fiscal year 2008 independent audit and financial report.

He okayed the financial information. “We found no fraud or such doing,” said Aldridge.

Council accepted the audit report.

• noted that the terms expire June 30 for chairman Ray Kohl and member Theresa Lazo of the Galax School Board.

Council will advertise the positions in The Gazette and invite interested citizens to submit letters of interest to the city manager prior to the first council meeting in March.

A slate of names will be presented to council at the March 9 meeting.

• appointed Tim Lewis to the Mount Rogers Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board.

• appointed Lisa Sutherland to the Galax Social Services Advisory Board. Sutherland will replace Lulu Lopez, who resigned from the board. Sutherland will fill the unexpired term through Aug. 31, 2010.

• reappointed Roger Martin, whose term expires in January, to the Galax Planning Commission. His new term will expire on June 30. Toward the end of this extended term, council can appoint this seat for a full four-year term to expire June 30, 2013.

• approved the 2009-10 budget preparation and adoption calendar. Work sessions will be scheduled in accordance with deadlines.