Vietnam Memorial Plan gets OK at cost of $150,000



 Many of the remaining pieces of an effort to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Bayview Park came together this week when the Key West City Commission voted to approve a conceptual site plan for the memorial and contribute up to $150,000 towards the construction.

The memorial would be located near the corner of North Roosevelt Blvd. and Jose Marti Drive. The lushly landscaped corner of Bayview Park would include a stone wall with the names of all Vietnam veterans who were either born or lived in Key West during the war years, including servicemen stationed in Key West at that time. Active Vietnam War solders living in the Keys from Marathon south would also be eligible, said memorial park committee member and Vietnam vet Jerry Hughes.

“We’ll take care of everybody,” he said.

Several local war veterans attended the meeting and emotionally voiced their support for the memorial.

“We’re not asking for more than we deserve: A welcome home and a place to heal,” said Vietnam vet Henry Fuller.

There are still some major hurdles to overcome before construction can begin. The city must apply for and receive a Monroe County Tourist Development Council (TDC) grant for one-third of the estimated $443,000 budget. And the memorial committee must raise the remaining third of the project cost from private donations.

Another potential stumbling block is whether the budget approved by commissioners is enough to cover actual costs. The original estimate provided by Key West project architect Bender & Associates – which is contributing its work pro bono – was for $382,000. However, when that initial budget was presented for review and comment to the construction company that built the city’s AIDS memorial, the landscaping costs were boosted and other contingency funds were added, increasing the budget approximately $60,000.

And there were other issues raised by the AIDS memorial contractor, D.L. Porter Constructors, which could further increase the Vietnam memorial project cost.

“It’s very important that all the parties involved work closely together in the development of this Memorial Park or the costs could quickly escalate,” said C. Marshall White, D.L. Porter vice president, in a letter to Bender & Associates. “As you can see from this breakdown, we have not included a lot of earthwork in the pricing and assume that the current boundary sidewalks would be reused.” “We need to know the real costs and allocations,” Key West resident and memorial park supporter Margaret Romero urged commissioners. “An awful lot of details are still missing in the proposal.”

City Commissioner Mark Rossi proposed to cap the city’s contribution at $125,000. But Mayor Craig Cates suggested that the cap be increased to $150,000, a little more than one-third of the current estimated budget. If the project goes over budget, it will be up to the memorial park committee to raise the needed funds.

“It’s a tremendous cause. It’s very, very heartening to see the city of Key West come out and do this,” said commissioner Teri Johnston.

Key West City Manager Bob Vitas said after the meeting that the memorial park would dovetail nicely into plans to redesign Bayview Park. The city is working on finalizing a $250,000 RFP to hire a consultant to develop a citizen-driven open space master plan, he said. If all goes according to schedule, that master plan, which could potentially include a redesign of Bayview Park, would be completed before Christmas, Vitas added.

However, putting any open space master plan into effect might take considerably longer. For example, the site plan for the proposed Truman Waterfront Park took 19 years to finalize.

Bert Bender, principal at Bender & Associates, Vietnam Veterans Memorial architects, said TDC grants normally come with a timeline.

“Once we get the TDC grant, we have deadlines. With most grant funds, you use it or you lose it,” Bender said.  

[livemarket market_name="KONK Life LiveMarket" limit=3 category=“” show_signup=0 show_more=0]