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updated: 1/6/2010 9:18 AM

Gurnee mayor vetoes veterans memorial deal

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  • Kirk Morris

      Kirk Morris

 
 

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik has vetoed an agreement to allow a trustee's foundation to continue developing and raising funds for a partially built memorial for military personnel who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kovarik said the foundation operated by Trustee Kirk Morris lacks financial wherewithal and technical expertise to complete the Heroes of Freedom Memorial on village-owned land.

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Morris speculated Kovarik's veto at Monday night's village board meeting was politically motivated. He said Village Attorney Bryan Winter and others spent considerable time crafting the deal after Kovarik raised concerns about the project in October.

"I'm shocked," said Morris, whose Marine son died in Iraq in 2004. "Shocked and hurt, I might add. This was an agreement that was in the best interests of the foundation and the village."

Trustees at a Dec. 21 meeting voted 5-0 to allow the Pfc. Geoffrey Morris Memorial Foundation to lead the project. Kovarik was not required to vote. Kirk Morris recused himself from all discussion and from voting on the deal.

But Kovarik issued her veto at Monday's board meeting. She said she hopes it is upheld in a vote scheduled for the Jan. 25 meeting.

Kovarik said it's unrealistic to believe the foundation can raise the necessary $250,000 for bronze statues planned for the park, because little has been accomplished in nearly five years.

"A good idea needs more than passion and goodwill to come to fruition," she said. "It needs professionals with the right expertise to execute and complete the idea. The people who have good ideas are rarely the same people who are able to execute against those ideas."

Morris countered that he's had architects and other professionals donate services for the memorial.

Although village board members agreed in 2005 to establish a memorial park in remembrance of U.S. military personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, Morris' foundation never was named in any documents until last month. Morris wasn't a trustee when he was asked to lead the memorial effort in 2005.

So far, Heroes of Freedom has nine flag poles representing every military branch and lights at its home on the village's former police headquarters site on Old Grand Avenue. Plans call for installation of a walkway, benches, a garden and the bronze sculptures.

Kovarik said she was surprised trustees approved what she called a flawed agreement. She said she has a duty to Gurnee residents who own the property in question.

She contends the village can't afford to install the walkway and benches this year as noted in the deal. The mayor also questioned how the village could commit to what likely would become a "money pit" due to memorial maintenance costs.

Under the agreement, the foundation was given a Dec. 31, 2014, completion date.

Kovarik said the site should remain dedicated to war veterans, just not as envisioned by the foundation.

Internal Revenue Service documents show total revenue raised for the foundation was $202,700 from tax years 2005 to 2007, the most recent available. Total expenses over the three years were $247,638, leaving the organization $44,938 in the red.

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