After years of planning and discussion, the Mt. Prospect Park District Board approved a bid for a permanent veterans memorial in Lions Memorial Park, and construction could begin almost immediately heading toward an early 2013 opening.
The park board approved a bid from Nicholas and Associates not to exceed $584,000 for the project by a vote of 4-3, with some members of the board expressing concerns over spending so much money during difficult economic times.
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Nearly 40 veterans and family members filled the meeting on Wednesday night. Several spoke in favor of the memorial and none spoke against it, though there had been an online petition started against the memorial in February for financial reasons.
The plan, which has been in the works for more than 15 years, includes a fountain, columns accented by engraved bricks, and decorative landscaping. The memorial will complement the existing Veterans Memorial Bandshell, which was dedicated in 1999.
Although Lisa Tenuta, Julie Caporusso and Susan Walsh voted against the bid, all three stressed their respect for veterans, which has also been called into question through online blogs in recent months.
"It disheartens me that it has been said that since I'm against this project that I'm not in support of our veterans," Tenuta said, listing several family members that have served in the armed forces. "But I take my job on this board very seriously and I have to look at if we are being fiscally responsible."
"We love our veterans, no one disagrees about that," said Susan Walsh, who spoke emotionally about her work with veterans in the community and her appreciation for their contributions.
Several commissioners were disappointed that the village has not stepped in to help fund the project but were committed to follow through on a plan made many years ago.
"We promised this to the veterans that are here and the ones that have already passed on. We made a promise and I want to keep it," said Commissioner Bill Klicka.
The memorial will be a special place for many of the veterans and family members in the audience.
"I'm one of six sons that served in the military. This means an awful lot," said Bob McKillop, one of the original committee members to help plan the original memorial years ago. "Here we are all these years later and we're still discussing it. We have waited a long time for this and we want to see it come to fruition."
For longtime Mount Prospect residents Gayle Reese and her mother, Lori, the memorial will be a place of reflection.
Reese's older brother, Michael was lost at sea in 1979 when his Navy plane crashed over the ocean.
"They looked for his plane and they never found anything. We never had a grave," Reese said of her brother who left two young children and now has five grandchildren who never met him. "When we first heard about this we bought a brick in his name and I've been telling my mom ever since that we would go there to remember him. I'm excited that we'll finally be able to have that celebration of his life soon."