Aldermen approve veteran’s memorial feasibility study

Dave Marner

A former mayor and long-time community supporter received permission Oct. 16 from Owensville aldermen to pursue a feasibility study for developing a veteran’s memorial.

E. Louise Baker sought approval for establishing the memorial site behind City Hall on ground which once held the MFA grain bins and an elevator building. MFA gave the parcel of land to the city years after the company eliminated the old  building and later had the bins removed. While aldermen agreed a memorial would be a good idea, there were questions on whether that location was the best one suitable for such a project.

Baker gave a 20-minute presentation to the full board to open their second meeting for the month of October. 

Baker suggested the location would be ideal especially if there is development of the Rock Island Trail project through town. She said other communities along the old Rock Island line she has visited have veteran’s memorials in close proximity to the old rail bed.

“It’s a place I drive by every day and it’s ugly. Ugly,” said Baker of the site which is bordered by North Second Street and the parking lot for City Hall. The Rock Island rail bed easement runs through the site from the crossing on Second and West Sears north toward McFadden.

She suggested development the site could possibly include a small gazebo and perhaps the old concrete pads where the grain bins were located could be used as design elements. “Somewhat similar to the old grain bins previously located there,” she said.

She said she envisions the site as a park which would require “minimal care” by park’s department staff.

She noted Gasconade County had 335 residents in the nation’s armed forces during WWI.

“I have a deep desire to honor our veterans,” said Baker describing the concept of having black granite moments on the site. She said she could obtain the markers at cost. She anticipates raising funds through donations and the purchase of bricks and stepping stones which can be etched with names of supporters or made in memory of a friend or family member.

She pledged $1,000 of her own money to begin the campaign.

“Things like this need to be brought into a strategic plan,” said Ward 1 Alderman Cathy Lahmeyer. 

Denise Bohl, an alderman in Ward 2, wondered if the project should be located somewhere in Memorial Park which was developed in the mid-1940s and dedicated to the memory of the county’s WWI and WWII veterans who died in service.

“That goes back to the strategic plan,” Lahmeyer added.

Baker sought support for the city’s contracted service providers to help with engineering and city staff for bookkeeping assistance  to handle donation.

“It’s going to be a park,” she added.

“I feel it’s worthy of a study…strategic planning,” said Cathy Lahmeyer, a Ward 1 aldermen.

Her fellow Ward 1 representative, Karl Buck, offered his input.

“I can say as a veteran, I’m interested,” said Buck noting he often thinks about friends who did not “make it back.”

With the city planning to build a new police station out on Highway 28 near the fire station, Buck wondered if possible future city plans to vacate the current city hall building for a new location would have an impact on developing a memorial on ground the city may eventually wish to sell.

“I question if it’s a great spot,” said Buck.

But, he added, “absolutely, it’s worth a study.”

“I totally support the concept,” said Lahmeyer. “Let’s move forward with the concept.”

“I appreciate all the hard work you’ve done for the community,” Mayor John Kamler told Baker. “I kind of like the idea myself. Especially if we get the trail.”

Jeff Kuhne, the city’s public works director, reminded aldermen there is an aging water main — prone to frequent leaks — which crosses the site Baker was suggesting be used for the veteran’s memorial park.

“A 4-inch water main runs through there that’s in absolutely horrible shape,” Kuhne warned aldermen. He suggested it should be replaced, or possibly be rerouted, should the city decided to offer the property for development of a veteran’s memorial site.

Nathan Schauf, the city’s administrator, said city staff and their contracted engineer are currently reviewing eight proposals received earlier this month from firms seeking a contract for the first phase of an environmental site assessment of city-owned ground along Highway 28 West where elected officials plan to build a new police station.

Schauf told aldermen the request for qualifications included the proposal to seek a site evaluation on the old MFA plant site to determine if any pollutants were present there.

Elected officials met this fall with police department staff and are developing a plan to build a new law enforcement facility on  a portion of  ground where the fire station is located. PolyTech, Inc., was located on a portion of the site before being destroyed by an early-morning explosion and fire on July 22, 1988. Polytech was a manufacturer of cast acrylic plastic sheets (plexiglass).

Aldermen agreed they would like to study the proposal and encouraged Baker to form the steering committee she proposed .

Baker said she understood there would be some issues with “easements to work around” pertaining to the rail bed site but wanted the board’s support for a pursuing a feasibility study for the project.

“It’s just the right size for a project like this,” said Baker. “Visualize a white fence around this property and monuments.”

Baker also received permission to use the board’s City Hall meeting room in November to hold a planning committee meeting for the project.