At Monday nights general meeting the Gurnee Village Board soundly rejected the court agreement between the Pfc. Geoffrey Morris Foundation and the Village regarding the “Heroes of Freedom Memorial Park” with four NO votes and 2 abstentions.
In what some observers might consider a break for the local taxpayers, the Board shot down a court negotiated agreement that would have cost in excess of $600,000 just to get it to a basic status, according to estimates. Part of the agreement called for the village to pick up ALL costs including the creation of three bronze statues which were part of the Foundations original plans.
Since the suit brought by the Foundation never went to jury trial, but instead was negotiated and signed off on by Judge Wallace Dunn shortly before a trial was to begin, the Foundation may have avoided providing specifics on what the $200,000 that they raised was spent on. Most would agree that several flag poles and lighting would not have cost nearly that amount and ongoing ground maintenance would have been taken care of by the village had the Foundation not accepted that responsibility. In the suit, the Foundation had asked for reimbursement of all their expenses, although the lighting and flags have long been removed with only the poles left in place.
Another concern that had been expressed was potential vandalism to the memorial once it is completed and the additional costs involved. As an out of area observer, I would question WHY the negotiated agreement still called for bronze statues of the three particular soldiers rather than bringing in an old tank or cannon with costs usually just being for transportation. Since the Foundation was unable to raise sufficient funds over a period of five years, why should the village be locked into paying for the three statues? Many of us knew US Army Captain Shane Mahaffee, 36, a Gurnee attorney and son of attorney Stephen Martin, who also died while serving. We could all make a list of local heroes who paid the ultimate price while defending our country. How much vandalism could be done to a heavy steel tank? And what about the flooding that will continue to inundate this area, wiping out landscaping, weakening sidewalk and foundation supports, just to mention a few.
The ladies who spoke during the public question and answer period stated that this memorial “would bring people to Gurnee and be a money-maker”. Is that the purpose of the memorial? Do you really think that other areas that have lost fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are going to flock to Gurnee to see some statues of local heroes when they have their own heroes? The location is also off the beaten path, on Old Grand Avenue, that is nothing but a cut-through street now.
The issue doesn’t end with this vote. It will now return to Judge Dunn’s chambers to decide what the next step will be. As one of the Trustee’s stated, “let an unbiased, unemotional, unpolitical decision be made to see if the village owes the Foundation any money”
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