Edina Veterans Committee working toward next step for memorial

The Edina Veterans Committee is receiving less than it requested to complete the next stage of the planned Veterans Memorial in Utley Park.

The committee was requesting $38,500 from the Edina City Council to pay for the specifications of the memorial to be completed. Those numbers, according to the committee, would allow companies who have expressed interest in doing in-kind donations to the memorial to give a final yes or no.

The council unanimously approved May 21 to give a 50 percent matching grant to the committee not to exceed $19,250. The committee will receive the grant once they can demonstrate they have provided the other $19,250. The Veterans Memorial account with the Edina Community Foundation has about $18,600, which came from private donations to the memorial, according to Recreation Supervisor Kristin Aarsvold, who serves as the city staff liaison with the Veterans Committee.

Council members noted that the project is a worthy one, but the request needs to come to the council in the same process as other funding requests.

A request like the one being made by the Veterans Committee would typically come out of the city’s capital improvement funding, which is planned a year in advance, Councilmember Ann Swenson said. The grant would probably come from the city’s contingency budget, City Manager Scott Neal said. In proposing the matching grant, Councilmember Josh Sprague said he was concerned about other items that may need the contingency funding.

When asking for the funding, Aarsvold told the council the committee is “at the point of no return.”

Mayor Jim Hovland said the council should take the step to help the committee make the Veterans Memorial a reality.

“I think we can figure out a way to do this and get this to the next step and give you every chance for success because everybody in Edina should see this memorial,” he said. “Everybody should be able to appreciate this memorial. Every veteran that’s served ought to be able to go to Utley Park and see this memorial and think about his service or her service and also those folks who have perished that helped us preserve our way of life.”

The Veterans Memorial is expected to cost $400,000 to build. Of that, $100,000 is expected to be paid by a donor at the project’s completion and $20,000 is expected from an Edina Rotary Club grant.

Legislation that would have paid for $250,000 of the cost failed to pass during the 2013 session.

The committee hasn’t turned to the public for help in paying for the memorial’s construction yet because everyone assumes there’s support for it, committee member and former Parks and Recreation Director Bob Kojetin said.

Veterans Committee member Marshall Schwartz has spent time interviewing Edina residents on whether they are a veteran or related to a veteran, in addition to collecting the names and stories of the Edina men who have died in combat. Schwartz told the council that there’s an “amount of pride and support that’s under the surface” for veterans in Edina.

In addition to discussion on the funding request, the committee received a stern warning to become better focused. Councilmember Mary Brindle told the committee members present that if the council says OK to funding, the committee needs to create a timeline, a plan and steps to get the memorial completed.

The committee, which formed in 2010, has been trying to regroup after the retirement of Parks and Recreation Director John Keprios in December, Aarsvold responded. The issue they continue to face is that they need specific plans before they can go to the contractors to ask for the in-kind donations, she said.


Contact Lisa Kaczke at [email protected]