West Side News

Last-minute plea to save Vets Memorial not heeded

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Franklin County commissioners said they will proceed with the demolition of the Franklin County Veterans Memorial, despite a last-ditch effort by a veterans group to save the facility.

A group calling itself Taxpayers and Veterans for Saving Vets Memorial has submitted a document to the commissioners rebuking their decision to raze the memorial and replace it with the Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum, which is expected to open in 2016.

"Until the wrecking ball comes crashing through the wall, we'll be fighting to keep it," said Bernie Brogan, a member of the taxpayers and veterans group and commander of American Legion Post 532, 1571 Demorest Road.

The document, dated June 12, calls into question the wisdom of replacing Vets with a "smaller memorial offering none of the flexibility and uses provided by the current facility."

"The Franklin County commissioners are proceeding to do this without the approval of the Franklin County voters and over the objections of the veterans, veterans' groups, organizations and the general public who benefit from the use of this facility," the Taxpayers and Veterans group argues in the document.

Commissioner John O'Grady had told ThisWeek Community News the 60-year-old Veterans Memorial facility is simply outdated and was in need of $10 million in repairs.

Also, the building has often lost money or barely broke even for several years, he said.

The new memorial, meanwhile, will be a statewide draw and a testament to the sacrifices soldiers have made to the country, O'Grady had said.

Taxpayers and Veterans maintains the facility did make a profit in 2011 and 2012, and contributes to the economic vitality of the area.

"I do believe that if they used the thing as they had in the past, use it to its full potential, it would be a money-maker," Brogan said.

Veterans also feel spurned by the decision to tear down the facility, he said, because they will be forced to participate in services in two locations instead of one.

In addition, the Franklin County Veterans Service Commission, which is located inside the current Veterans Memorial, essentially was forced to move to unattractive accommodations on Broad Street with no on-site parking.

"It's very inconvenient," Brogan said. "It's just a slap in the face."

The commission did consent to the move after other office options were presented.

Hannah Greer, spokeswoman for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, said plans are proceeding for the demolition.

Greer, who said she hadn't seen the document from Taxpayers and Veterans, said there's little chance the commissioners will reverse their decision.

"The property is already in contract and we're moving forward with plans to develop an Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum on the Scioto Peninsula north of Broad Street," Greer said.

Franklin County has committed $3 million for its construction and $2.6 million for the Vets Memorial demolition.

Limited Brands founder Leslie H. Wexner and his wife, Abigail, have contributed $25 million toward the new facility's construction. Another $15 million came from the state.

The new memorial and museum are part of an overall plan to revitalize the 56-acre Scioto Peninsula, which would also include retail and residential redevelopment.

A proposed tax increase by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, part of which would have contributed to building Downtown Adventure, a new satellite zoo on the peninsula, was defeated by voters at the May ballot.

The satellite zoo facility was to be a key piece in the redevelopment plans.

The last events will be held in Veterans Memorial on July 31. Environmental abatement and clean-up efforts will begin this fall and demolition should start at the end of the year.

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