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posted: 2/17/2010 12:01 AM

Pressure still on Gurnee mayor over memorial

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  • Kirk Morris

    Kirk Morris


Another upset crowd showed up at Gurnee village hall to rip Mayor Kristina Kovarik's recent veto of an agreement to allow a trustee's foundation to develop a memorial to troops who died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition to the criticism that flowed during a public comment portion of Monday's village board meeting, six or so protesters stood outside the building beforehand, some displaying anti-Kovarik signs as they did Feb. 1.

"Gurnee, we're really heading in the wrong direction. We really are," said one of the evening's speakers, Peter Karlovics, an attorney and local political activist who's been a Kovarik critic.

Kovarik contends Trustee Kirk Morris' foundation accomplished little in the nearly five years it was unofficially in charge of building Heroes of Freedom Memorial Park where the police headquarters once stood on Old Grand Avenue. She said the lack of progress is why Morris' group should not lead the project.

Last week, Morris responded with a lawsuit against the village and Kovarik over her veto of the deal that would have officially named his foundation to raise private money and build the memorial on the publicly-owned land by Dec. 31, 2014.

Village board members in December voted 5-0 in favor of the agreement with the Pfc. Geoffrey Morris Memorial Foundation, named for the trustee's Marine son who died in the Iraq war in 2004.

Kovarik vetoed the agreement in early January, and the board later in the month voted 3-2 against overriding the mayor's action. Morris has recused himself from all votes or discussion on the issue.

Roughly 40 spectators attended Monday's board meeting, with most in the crowd against Kovarik. However, the first speaker, Gurnee resident Elmer Fallos, backed the mayor and jabbed Morris for suing the village he was elected to represent in 2009.

Fallos said Gurnee will waste public money fighting Morris' lawsuit instead of spending it on village services for residents and businesses.

"This is how it'll affect all of us," Fallos said. "And for what? A piece of dirt in the flood plain. I want everyone to know I respect and am forever grateful to everyone who served in our armed services."

Kovarik said she wants a smaller-scale memorial different from the plan Gurnee architect Dan Robison voluntarily created for Morris, which includes benches, flags, walkways and statues estimated to cost $250,000.

Saying he was speaking for a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans "against Kovarik park," Marine Sgt. Jason Jerik of Gurnee said at the meeting that anything other the Robison-crafted memorial plan would not be acceptable.

"It's a memorial that should be done right," Jerik said, "and up to the standards of all other veterans memorials."

In his lawsuit, Morris wants a judge declare he and the foundation have a right to exclusive use of the "Heroes of Freedom Memorial" name he trademarked, and the village can't block him from completing the project.

Morris also seeks unspecified damages from the village for work the private foundation performed to improve the publicly owned 1-acre site on Old Grand. The foundation spent an estimated $200,000 on the park.

Kovarik has said the village couldn't afford to maintain the park if it were built.