Veterans monument moves forward

Oconto Falls School Board asks to see final plan

Warren Bluhm,

A soil test and additional fundraising are the next steps before a veterans monument, shown here in an artist’s rendering, can be built just south of Oconto Falls School District offices. (File image)

After months of discussion, the Oconto Falls School Board has approved the terms of a memorandum of understanding with local groups for the construction and maintenance of a veterans monument on school district property.

Those terms include bringing a completed plan back to the board for final approval. Construction cannot begin until the veterans groups have raised at least 75 percent of the costs in cash and in-kind contributions.

Veterans groups must also establish a $20,000 sinking fund and pay annual fees of $300 for maintenance and $1,300 for insurance for the monument, which would be located just south of the school district office on North Farm Road. The veterans and school district each agreed to pay half of the attorney fees the district has incurred in negotiating and developing the memorandum.

The next step is for the veterans groups to arrange for a soil test at the site and complete the necessary fundraising, spokesman Bob Maloney told the board at its Jan. 14 meeting.

About 60 percent of the $100,000 monument cost has been raised, and another $25,000 to $30,000 is committed once the veterans have a groundbreaking date, Maloney said. The sinking fund would be over and above the cost of the monument.

“There’s an awful lot of volunteerism coming through on this,” he said. “The concrete is about 50 percent cost basis. The labor is 100 percent donated; the landscaping is 90 percent donated. We just have to buy the product. So there’s a lot of volunteers coming to the table with this that will factor into the cost of it all but it won’t be an actual cash layout for us.”

Board members approved the agreement on a voice vote, with Lisa Peitersen dissenting. She has advocated for the original proposed site along Central Avenue, for which the bulk of the money was raised five years ago. Maloney has said that site turned out to be inadequate.

President Ron Leja said he continues to wish the matter could go to a communitywide vote.

“I still believe that to keep this cleaner that, if we did this through referendum and had the community support it, I would feel a lot safer going down this road,” Leja said. “Maybe we don’t need that sinking fund that high if we would get this through a referendum.”

Jan Stranz, the board vice president, said she was “not thrilled with the way this project grew extra legs,” with the board caught in the middle of a disagreement among veterans about where to located the monument.

“I keep trying to focus back on, what if the only ‘ask’ had been to locate this monument on school property, without the other things?” Stranz said. “I can’t come in my mind to any reason to delay it and not move forward with the information we have.”

She said she hopes veterans will now find a way to come together and support one project.