Changes in the works for Veterans War Memorial

Aerial view of planned combat veterans’ memorial. | LandPlan South

BLYTHEWOOD – Organizers of a proposed combat veterans’ memorial in downtown Blythewood have reduced the level of financial support they’re seeking, though other considerations have been added to the project.

On June 26, council members voted unanimously to release $28,200 to the Blythewood Historical Society & Museum, which is handling the project. Funds will be applied toward the design and construction of the memorial.

The $28,200 requested for the memorial includes $23,500 for preliminary planning work, plus a 20% contingency Historical Society representative Malcom Gordge requested.

Fundraising efforts to raise the remaining $200,000-plus needed are in the works, Gordge added.

The council had provided for up to $40,000 in the budget to be applied toward the memorial, said Town Administrator Carroll Williamson.

The monument as proposed would list the names of about 240 sons and daughters of Blythewood – as well as others who served combat duty for the U.S. military. Its estimated price tag is about $265,000.

Project Was Not Bid Out

Town leaders deferred action in April after council members Donald Brock and Rich McKenrick questioned the release of funds, citing the fact that LandPlan South was handpicked by the Historical Society without putting out for bids from other firms as required by town ordinance.

Gordge told council members at the meeting that bids have now been let and two other companies submitted bids, but have since withdrawn those bids.

“They withdrew their bids, saying they were not in a position to take on a major project at this time,” Gordge said. “We are back to where we started.”

That leaves LandPlan South, the original company that was chosen by the memorial committee.

Location Questioned

While the proposed site is in front of town hall, the Director of the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce, Phil Frye, submitted a letter to council in opposition to the project. The letter was read into the record at the April meeting.

In his letter, Frye argued that the $40,000 earmarked for the project could instead be spent on revenue-generating improvements to town facilities.

The letter also called for the council to relocate the memorial site to a different location than in front of the Town Hall. Frye suggested it be located on property the Town recently purchased at the intersection of Sandfield and Langford roads.

Jim McLean, who was representing the project for the historical society at that meeting, reacted to the letter, declaring, “The location and the plan has already been approved by the town on Oct. 24, 2022.”

At last week’s meeting, Gordge conceded that the final site may change.

Councilman Donald Brock asked Gordge, who also chairs the town’s planning commission, to take the town’s anticipated growth and development into consideration when selecting a memorial site.

Since April 2010, the population of Blythewood has nearly tripled from 2,034 to 5,839, according to census estimates.

Additionally, significant road and infrastructure projects have been proposed to accommodate Scout Motors, which is investing $2 billion to build a massive automotive plant in Blythewood.

Busy Langford Road, which some officials say could be widened, runs right next to the proposed site of the monument.

“As you’re well aware, there’s going to be some major changes in this town over the next 3-5 years, to put it mildly,” Brock said. “At some point, everyone realizes that something has got to give.”

Brock further said that memorial organizers should consider alternative locations so that expected growth doesn’t clash with the memorial.

“You’re creating an environment that’s serene and respectful. You don’t want loud noises,” he said. “We want to offer an environment where people can offer their respects. An alternative location should be heavily explored.”

The 15-and-a-half foot monument.

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