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Veterans memorial planned for Kiwanis Park in Johnson City

April 6th, 2007 11:15 pm by COREY SHOUN



JOHNSON CITY - Johnson City's Kiwanis Park should soon get a facelift and become home to a veterans memorial following action by the Johnson City Commission Thursday night.


The panel unanimously approved, in concept, plans to both renovate and improve Kiwanis Park and allow the Washington County Veterans Memorial Committee to construct a memorial on a portion of the park. City Manager Pete Peterson said it's likely that neither project would see actual construction for at least 18 months.


"As it stands right now, there really aren't any major impediments to this project," Peterson said, though he suggested budgeting only funds for site plan work and permits in the coming fiscal year.


The current Little League baseball season, playground programs and the necessary permitting process - part of the project would include widening the creek channel that runs through the park - would likely hold up the process until early next year, at which time Little League season would begin again.


"It would be very difficult to do any construction prior to the first of August 2008," Peterson said.


While no official cost estimates have been worked up, Peterson estimated the project, not including the veterans memorial, would reach about $1.5 million.


The project would include:


•Three Little League baseball fields, oriented northeast and southwest for optimum sun angles and elevated to avoid flooding.


•A concession stand and restroom building and batting cages.


•Relocated basketball courts, volleyball courts and playground equipment.


•Possibly closing at least a portion of West Main Street, which runs alongside the park, to through traffic.


•Space for the veterans memorial, likely in a portion of the park along Sidney Street, near the entrance to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, complex.


Tim Belisle, representing the memorial committee, said the group wants to construct an upscale, respectful memorial that could honor at least 13,000 Washington County veterans.


Vice Mayor Phil Roe, a veteran himself, has been an ardent supporter of the group's efforts.


"We need to honor these people," Roe said. "It's not just one person - it's families involved. It's generations involved. It needs to be a powerful statement."


Belisle said the memorial project could come in between $1 million and $2 million. The group is "putting all the elements together" and will now, with the commission's commitment to allow use of a portion of the park, have a better position from which to design the memorial.


Though Commissioner Pete Paduch raised concerns about having too many different types of amenities in the park, Peterson said he is confident the plan can work, with some fine-tuning.


"I think we can accommodate all of the requested needs and uses at Kiwanis Park and do it cost effectively," Peterson said. "Equally as important, or even more importantly, we're making a major reinvestment in that neighborhood."


Mayor Steve Darden said he believes the plan presents a perfect marriage of offerings.


"It's appropriate that the children would be exposed to the memorial," Darden said.


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