Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2005

Groundbreaking for memorial delayed to May 21

April 28, 2005

Mike Howell will have to wait a few more weeks to break ground on the Lansing Memorial to Veterans.

Howell, who proposed the memorial in February, wanted to break ground on May 1, which is Loyalty Day. However, he'll have to wait until May 21, Armed Forces Day, so that a shed and a Dumpster on the site of the future memorial can be moved.

City Administrator Mike Smith said the shed contains some of the city's outdoor equipment. He said moving the shed was not too much trouble, but moving the Dumpster was. Because it's a large one, he said, finding a new location where garbage trucks can reach it has been problematic. However, he said he hoped to have the problems resolved within the next few weeks.

The memorial will be on city property southwest of City Hall. Howell's original plans were to place the memorial next to the Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 station at Kansas Avenue and Main Street, but the new location has parking already established, he said.

Though pushing back the groundbreaking may put pressure on Howell's ambitious deadline of finishing the memorial by Nov. 11, Veterans Day, he said he was glad the city didn't ask him to postpone his plans.

"I was pleased we didn't say, 'Let's wait a year,'" he said.

Howell said his impatience was keeping him focused on his goal.

"They keep telling me I'm crazy, but I'm not going to give up on getting it finished till November 10," he said.

The next step in bringing his dream to fruition will be to involve the community, Howell said. He said he already had a committee of about 13 volunteers to help him to meet the task. The committee will meet soon to distribute jobs, he said.

Howell said he had sold about 25 or 30 bricks as of last week. He said he'd been selling on average one or two per week, but occasionally he would sell three or more in a day.

"I thought that was pretty good without really advertising," he said.

The big push for advertising the memorial and brick sales will begin after the groundbreaking, Howell said. He said he would like the city to put up a sign after the groundbreaking to heighten awareness of the memorial and its location. Smith said Howell would probably ask City Council to provide the sign at its next meeting, May 5.

"It's up to the council to decide whether to spend city funds," Smith said.

Howell said he also would like to find corporate sponsors for the project. While he currently has none, he said he hadn't solicited much yet. He said he envisioned a black granite wall off to one side of the memorial engraved with corporate sponsors' names.

The estimated cost of the memorial is about $100,000. Howell and his committee are responsible for raising funds, and the city will take on the building contracts. The memorial will become city property once it is finished.

Howell said he expected the city to require "a pretty good chunk of money in the bank" before construction can begin. However, he said if he sold all 2,600 bricks needed to create the memorial, he would raise $104,000. Bricks cost $40 each or $100 for three. He said he also had talked to Sen. Sam Brownback's office about finding federal grant money for the project.

"They couldn't tell me that there was some, but they couldn't tell me there wasn't, either," Howell said.

Howell said he'd been asked what would happen if his committee raised more money than necessary to build the memorial. He said additional money would go into the city budget for upkeep and growth of the memorial.

"More money than we need? I don't think we'll ever have that," he said.

The final rendering of the memorial is still being created, Howell said. The new site has utility pipes underground that have to be taken into account before the location can be finalized.

Howell said he was looking forward to construction beginning on his pet project.

"I'm going to be like an expectant father once construction starts," he said. "I'll be up there every day."

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