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updated: 2/25/2012 4:41 PM

Online debate raging over plans for Mt. Prospect veterans memorial

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  • Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col Bill Starr, left, and retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John "Dutch" DeGroot hope to get the wheels moving on a larger Veteran's Memorial at Lions Park in Mount Prospect. The band shell is dedicated to veterans but was meant to be part of a bigger memorial.

       Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col Bill Starr, left, and retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John "Dutch" DeGroot hope to get the wheels moving on a larger Veteran's Memorial at Lions Park in Mount Prospect. The band shell is dedicated to veterans but was meant to be part of a bigger memorial.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • This is a sketch of the proposed project.

      This is a sketch of the proposed project.
    Courtesy Mount Prospect Park District

 
 

Plans to build a veterans memorial in a Mount Prospect park have become the subject of dueling online petitions -- one of which supports the project, the other which criticizes it as too costly.

Mount Prospect resident Kevin Johnston started the debate with an anti-memorial petition, titled "No 600K Fountain in Lions Park," and posted it earlier this month on the website ipetitions.com.

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The petition says the project, which is being undertaken by the Mount Prospect Park District, will cost $600,000, money it suggests should be spent on improving existing park district facilities. The petition can be found at ipetitions.com/petition/no-600k-fountain-in-lions-park.

Johnston said he based the cost estimate on information the park district provided at a recent meeting. He stressed that his petition is about the use of taxpayer dollars in a down economy, not the sacrifices made by veterans.

"I'm very thankful for what veterans have done for this country," Johnston said. "I'm not sure, though, that this particular project is a cost-effective way to honor them."

Mount Prospect resident Bill Starr, a veteran and commander of the American Legion post in Mount Prospect, started his own petition, titled "Build the Veterans Memorial in Mt. Prospect," in support of the project. His petition can be found at ipetitions.com/petition/build-the-veterans-memorial-in-mt-prospect.

Starr believes Johnston's petition is misleading.

"It makes it seem as if all that money is being spent on a fountain, which is not the case," Starr said. "The project is bigger than that. And frankly, a place for local veterans and their families to sit and reflect is long overdue in Mount Prospect. Many other towns already have places like this."

Plans to build a veterans memorial in Lions Park have been on the park district's to-do list for more than 10 years, park district officials said. The memorial would complement the existing Veterans Memorial Bandshell, which was dedicated in 1999. The current concept for the memorial includes a fountain, columns accented by engraved bricks and decorative landscaping.

Previous cost estimates for the project have suggested that the price could fall between $400,000 and $600,000, but that estimate includes a contingency and the cost of tearing down the existing maintenance garage that sits on the site, park district CEO Walter Cook said. Park board President John Eilering said the board hoped to seek competitive bids on the project this year.

"We're at the point right now where we'd like to get going on this," Eilering said. "But it's too early to start throwing dollar amounts around. Our plan was to bid this out, see what comes back, and go from there."

To offset a portion of the cost, the park district is selling engraved bricks for $250 and $450 apiece, depending on the brick's size. Sixty-three bricks have been sold so far, raising a total of $17,230. For information on purchasing a brick, visit the park district's veterans memorial website at mppd.org/veteransmemorial.

Some have suggested that one of the park district's commissioners was behind the anti-memorial petition. In the signature portion of Starr's pro-memorial petition, one of the signers mentions "Ms. Walsh" -- apparently a reference to Commissioner Susan Walsh.

Johnston said that no commissioner had anything to do with his petition.

"I wrote it; I decided to post it online," he said. "None of the commissioners helped with this. It's my petition."

Walsh said that while she does have concerns about the potential cost of the project, she had nothing to do with Johnston's petition. She added that she hopes residents on both sides of the issue recognize that discussions about cost don't imply a lack of respect for veterans.

"In truth, we all owe veterans everything," Walsh said. "I bought a brick for this project. But I also think it's OK to ask questions about cost and where money goes, especially in this economy."

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