Veterans, County at Standstill over Memorial Site
A joint committee of veterans and county officials have still not come to a resolution over the future of the veterans memorial in Carthage.
The 10-member Veterans Memorial Advisory Council was formed as an outgrowth of a debate veterans had last year with the Moore County commissioners over the future of county-owned land near the memorial off U.S. 15-501. Veterans became concerned when they learned commissioners were discussing the possible sale of land adjacent to the memorial to the Bojangles’ company for a fast-food restaurant.
Friday’s meeting was the first for the full committee since a subcommittee met to discuss how the property would be utilized.
Moore County Social Services Director John Benton said the group was supposed to determine the space needs of the memorial land for the next 50 years.
Benton said that the existing memorial has space for two additional tablets that are capable of holding the names of 720 veterans.
“There are about 11,000 names of discharged military veterans on file with the Register of Deeds,” he said. “Eight thousand are on the memorial now, with the potential for 3,200 to be added. Adding seven new tablets on the existing footprint would provide space for all county veterans to be listed.”
Benton said the veterans office reports an additional 30 new names per year, which he said the subcommittee rounded to 50.
“Fifty names at 50 years is 2,500 names,” he said. “The seven additional tablets would provide space for this growth.”
With expansion of the site considered, Benton said, 31 tablets or 10,440 names could be added.
“The site could expand to 29 gray tablets and two black tablets for MIA/KIA veterans,” he said. “Adding 100 names per year would allow for 104 years of growth beyond current projections.”
County Commissioner and Advisory Council Co-chair Jimmy Melton seemed pleased with the report.
“We’ve got a footprint now,” he said. “The subcommittee accomplished what needed to be done. Our original goal was to protect the memorial, and now we have the information before us to know what we’ve got to do to protect it.”
Committee member and veterans advocate Carolyn Mealing then revealed a plan approved by veterans that encompassed the monument and the additional acreage that veterans are attempting to protect from development.
“Currently, the memorial contains over 8,000 names engraved on 23 gray granite tablets, and there would be room to place 40 additional tablets on the current site if the site were slightly expanded,” said Mealing.
“When special programs are held at the memorial site, the small footprint on which the memorial site is located cannot begin to accommodate the people who come together from all parts of Moore and surrounding counties to honor our veterans. There are no restrooms, storage facilities, cooking facilities, seats, stage or audio equipment. These all have to be brought in and set up each time there is a function.”
Mealing reiterated that the committee “was asked to find a way to bridge the concerns of the Moore County veterans and the county’s concerns with respect to the best use of the property.”
“This concept, designed by landscape architect Vince Zucchino, utilizes the memorial site and the three-plus acres adjacent to it for the Moore County Veterans Memorial Park,” she said. “As a county park, it would preserve and protect the purpose of the Moore County Veterans Memorial, which is the most critical concern of the Moore County Veterans Memorial Committee and other Moore County veterans groups.
“As a park, it would preserve green space, be available for county purposes, county veterans groups, Carthage and other towns and Moore County citizen groups for purposes deemed appropriate by the Moore County Board of Commissioners and would thus serve all Moore County citizens well.”
Mealing said the amenities of the proposed park would include an amphitheater with wheelchair accessibility and restrooms.
“It would initially accommodate 250-plus seats and could easily be enlarged,” she said. “An amphitheater would greatly enhance the park’s usability and function, as it could be used not only for veterans, county and town programs but for other appropriate group functions as well.”
Park benches, picnic tables, a reflecting pool, and walking and biking trails were also listed.
“We envision an open field for various activities, landscaping that would capture and enhance the natural flow of the property and needs of the space, and places for cooking and serving are also included, ”she said. “The park could truly be utilized by all Moore County citizens.”
Mealing said that agreement by the county to continue to provide the insurance and maintenance of that property under joint ownership between the Moore County Veterans Memorial Committee and the county, “as was recommended by Commissioner Larry Caddell on August 7, 2012,” would be “essential” for the proposal to work.
“This is our opportunity to show our appreciation, gratitude and respect for what our veterans have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for us,” she said. “We therefore ask this committee to approve this concept for the Moore County Veterans Memorial Park, and to recommend that the full county board of commissioners approve this proposal as soon as it is practical to do so.
“They fought for us,” she said in conclusion. “Isn’t it our turn to fight for them?”
Melton thanked her for the presentation.
“This is one concept to look at, but I don’t know if this is the final end,” he said.
Moore County Planning Board Chairman Robert Hayter posed several questions to Zucchino that he said “should be in the minutes.”
“I know Vince Zucchino both personally and professionally, and believe his skills are exemplary,” he said. “But I think it is prudent to ask a few technical questions regarding this proposal.”
Hayter asked Zucchino what he believed would be the cost for the project.
“I hesitate to put numbers out there at this point, since we were only coalescing some ideas into a conceptual plan, but I would estimate the cost at up to $1 million.”
“Would you say that there are other equally effective ways to protect or enhance the site, other than what you did?” Hayter asked.
“I have to say yes, that there are other concepts,” Zucchino said. “But our idea was to give as much space to the memorial as possible.”
Raymond Doby, who co-chairs the advisory council with Melton and is also a veterans advocate, said he did not take part in the planning process.
“I don’t know who did what, but I wasn’t involved,” he said. “They did a good job, but I wonder why I wasn’t contacted.”
But committee member Ruby Hendrick said that all were in agreement.
“The Moore County Veterans Memorial Committee unanimously voted to present this for consideration,” she said.
Melton then proposed that the subcommittee develop a “Plan B.”
“Since we’ve established a footprint for future growth, and Mr. Zucchino said that there might be other ways to do this, then I think we should consider all the possibilities,” he said. “If it’s OK with Mr. Doby, we will look at another concept.”
Doby and Benton each agreed with Melton’s proposal.
“There might be a better way to utilize the site,” Benton said. “Mr. Zucchino did a wonderful job, but we might be able to do something different for half a million.”
Moore County Commissioners’ Chairman Nick Picerno, who had remained silent throughout the meeting, reiterated the issue of time as it concerned the memorial.
“This situation became political before my re-election, and the media portrays this as something that has to be done now or something terrible will happen,” he said. “But the truth is, I keep hearing the phrase ‘protect the memorial,’ but it is already protected. The county board has given you that time.
“The right thing to do is to get it done right, not get it done fast. Nothing will happen until a decision is made by this board.”
The subcommittee meets again on Jan. 28 to discuss “Plan B.”
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or email@example.com.
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