The Village of South Jacksonville is looking at bringing a special war memorial to the village in the near future. During the last night of public budget hearings, the village appropriated $300,000 out of the village’s tourism fund to revamp Dewey Park next to village hall.
The village heard of a design for a war memorial for post 9/11 war veterans from local combat veteran and attorney Tyson Manker. “I think the most important thing you’ve been discussing is using a portion of your tourism budget, which ultimately is about bringing people into the village to shop and buy gas at our gas stations; and so the idea that we could have not only the village’s first military veteran war memorial, which is cool in itself. At this point it’s 20 years after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and 20 years of my generation and Village President Harry Jennings’ generation of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the War on Terror – we don’t have a monument like that in the county. I think it would be really great if the Village of South Jacksonville took that initiative.”
In a letter distributed to trustees prior to the meeting, Manker provided examples of other war memorials throughout the Jacksonville area as well as a proposal for selling bricks for an overlay at the memorial to help raise funds for the project. He also personally volunteered to help provide maintenance and see the project through to its end. Manker also noted that the proposed War on Terror veteran memorial could be a point of education for South Jacksonville Elementary.
The idea had some push back by Public Facilities Manager John Green and Trustee Jason Hill because of funding and manpower. Green told the board that his department doesn’t have the manpower: “We don’t want another $300,000 park in the village to maintain.” Trustee Hill said it didn’t have anything to do with honoring veterans: “This is a money issue. We have to appropriate money in the budget. We have to pay to maintain it each year.” Trustee Greg Nelson said that it would be a great opportunity for the village, however, saying it would raise the profile of the village and provide a point of positivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our tourism fund has over $600,000 in it. We could and I think it would behoove us to have a fantastic park that’s an attraction and an educational point in the village.”
Hill and Green had explored options for a smaller memorial stone and revamping a tennis court and playground equipment prior to the meeting. Manker took exception to the smaller memorial stone, saying it was an insult to veterans in the area. Village President Harry Jennings said a larger memorial was needed and was given support by a majority of the trustees for the idea of a larger-scale project. Manker provided the board with a possible design and layout. The village trustees agreed that they would pursue several options for design with an architect to maximize the funds and have a suitable memorial.
The village’s official board meeting with action on the budget will take place on Tuesday at 6:30.