On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council provided feedback on a proposed design that will include moving the Veterans Memorial at the foot of L Street at the Antioch Marina.
The move came after construction for a new $425k restroom started and veterans became unhappy with the proximity of the restroom to the veterans memorial. The City proposed placing some bushes to block the view of the memorial, but veterans were not happy with that solution.
After news broke of the restrooms proximity to the memorial, the veterans community and public called foul and demanded a change be made. In response, the city held a meeting with JR Wilson and other local veterans to come up with a solution. Although no cost was included in the presentation, the solution was formally presented to the council for feedback.
During Tuesdays meeting, Antioch Public Works Director John Blank explained that the bathroom project was approved in 2007. Now that it was being built, they received feedback that the bathroom was too close to the veterans memorial.
Blank explained the proposal was to move the monument, along with a bench, a victory tree, military branch flag poles, decorative wrought iron fence, moving the sign, along with the war dog memorial. Behind a proposed wall, there will be cypress trees.
During public comments, JR Wilson, of the Delta Veterans Group, spoke urging the council to get this design approved and work completed by Veterans Day.
“In light of the estimates not being a part of the staff report, we are going to ask the mayor ask the staff to put together a budget to come back to the city council for a vote with the intent of having full passage of our proposal with a dedication being this Veterans Day,” said Wilson. “We are here today because of the city council passed whatever, we are here because there’s a bathroom next to our memorial that wasn’t publicity that we decided to have, but that decision has brought negativity and bad light to our veterans community.”
Wilson asked this be brought back at the next meeting with a budget so the work could be completed before Veterans Day.
“We also would like to know how long, how long do we in this community have to look at our memorial through a fence that is next to a bathroom?” asked Wilson. “That we had to ask the city to open up for Memorial Day. How long?”
Wilson asked the council to turn this negative into a positive.
“The proposal that we put together on August 13th and that you just had outline is a way to bring a negative to a positive. We didn’t ask for the media to come, they came,” said Wilson.
Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said she was for this project and wanted to see it completed before Veterans Day and said she would like to see the council move this forward as this council did not approve where the bathrooms were going to go.
“I personally did not understand that the bathroom was going to go there. I know in January this was put on consent calendar… I did not research and find out that the bathrooms are going to be so close to this memorial. So, I do apologize to the veteran’s community for that. But I am one to move forward on this.”
Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked about the timeline from the funding to completion.
Blank responded the timeline would be tough to complete by Veterans Day but they could get some of the work done to ensure a meaningful ceremony.
“I’m not very super competent that we can get it done. We just have to do too. We put together plan and go right to work and we’ve got an idea,” said Blank.
Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts said this community has always been supportive of veterans with a veterans parade every year.
“I just want to make sure that the community knows that as soon as it was brought to our attention that the staff and city manager, Ron Bernall and all of us have been willing to do whatever we needed to do to try to make this right, make sure that we take care of honoring our veterans and veterans in the right way,” said Motts.
Motts said she liked the design, but requested the cost so they can move forward with a consideration.
Councilmember Lamar Thorpe agreed stating he was a veteran and never thought his colleagues or previous councils did anything to disrespect the veterans community.
“I also want to echo comes Councilwoman Motts sentiments that yes, when this was brought to our attention, we certainly got to work and it was not brought to our attention when the news media showed up and turned this into a hysterical event. We were working on that long before that with Jr.,” said Thorpe.
Thorpe said he liked the design but was concerned with the cost before making a decision.
Mayor Sean Wright was in favor of the project.
“I am 100% behind this and moving forward,” said Wright who looked for a solution to get some of the work done before Veterans Day to make it a nice monument. “I would love to see as much as possible so when people see it that it looks like a finished product on Veterans Day.”
Blank responded they could move the monument and do some of the improvements to make it a nice ceremony.
Wright suggested they give the City up to $40,000 to get things started and move forward before coming back later when a cost is finalized. Blank said that was possible.
During the next meeting, City Staff will come back with a cost estimate and the council will decide on the project.