City Council OKs new veterans’ memorial

Discussion stalls briefly over policy of adding and removing names

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
A monument in Midlothian’s Founders Park honors “those men and women of this community who served our country in times of peace and war and especially to those who gave their lives in that service.” The Midlothian City Council approved funding for a new veterans' memorial to be built in the city's Community Park.

Following discussion that at times turned tense, funding for a new veterans’ memorial at Midlothian Community Park was given the go-ahead salute at the Tuesday, May 25 meeting of the Midlothian City Council.

On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, the council approved a $644,615 expenditure from the Midlothian Community Development Corporation to fund construction of what city parks and recreation director Heather Dowell called a “Veterans’ Tribute,” with living veterans to be honored as well as the deceased. The agreement is in the form of a change order to the overall agreement with Dean Construction to build Phase II of the community park.

However, the vote to approve the memorial bogged down in a discussion over procedures on how to add and remove names on the memorial. City attorney Kevin Laughlin resolved the issue by recommending council approval of the memorial now, with procedures to be put in place later.

Following a brief executive session, the council unanimously approved the memorial as is, with the option of directing staff moving forward. Mayor Richard Reno said a naming policy will be brought back before the council, and no names will be added until the council approves them.

Dowell said after multiple meetings with the city park board, MCDC and a veterans’ committee, a plan was formulated for the memorial. Some of the features include a walkway lined with trees and benches; six monoliths depicting the six military branches; black granite seating walls; a flagpole with lighting; and a decorative entryway. The memorial will be situated in the southwest side of Phase II in a wildflower area, Dowell told the council.

Dowell said the committee is busy researching names of veterans in Midlothian to place on the memorial, with organizations such as the American Legion assisting.  She said veterans would be honored starting with 1888, which was the year Midlothian was incorporated.

Dowell said the addition of names would likely be an ongoing process, with names added each year on either Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day or both. The deadline of July 4 was set for receipt of names for the initial engraving.

“We’ll try to get a large number in the beginning, and then we’ll continuously each year put out calls to people to bring in names,” Dowell said. “This is something that could (take) 20 years, and not find everyone.”

Dowell said the wall of the memorial will have enough space for the addition of thousands of names if needed. She also said the decision was made to list only the name and service branch, with no rank or years of service.

At present, the city honors veterans with a single granite monument in the city’s Founders Park honoring “those men and women of this community who served our country in times of peace and war and especially to those who gave their lives in that service.” The undated monument was placed in tribute by American Legion Clyde Voorhies Post 388.

Councilmembers lauded the design of the proposed new memorial, which resembles the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. Mayor Reno noted that it is up to citizens to provide names, but a number of names of veterans are already available from Ellis County and other organizations.

However, details soon got in the way of the discussion.

Councilmembers Ted Miller and Walter Darrach initially fretted about the addition of names, citing instances where some memorial sites were removed or vandalized because of changes in how some honorees are perceived. But Dowell reassured them by saying that having a name to touch was the desire of people her committee communicated with.

Councilmember Hud Hartson said he had concerns that there was “no concrete leadership taking a role” in the upkeep of the memorial and the vetting of names to be added. But Dowell refuted that quickly, saying the Parks Department will be in charge of the memorial.

Councilmember Justin Coffman defended the committee, saying he has been involved with the committee either as an MCDC member or a City Council liaison since 2017. Reno admonished Hartson for making a statement about a person’s qualifications, and Dowell said Hartson’s allegations of dysfunction were untrue.

All councilmembers were present.

Other items

• The council approved minutes from the May 11 meeting and approved a resolution to deny Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC’s application to increase distribution rates as the consent agenda.

• An ordinance was approved amending and restating in its entirety an urban village planned development at 101 South 3rd Street. The property recently changed hands and the plan was changed to allow for six diagonal parking spots on 3rd Street, which will relieve the situation of customers parking on Main Street. A 40-foot easement was granted along 3rd Street to the corner of Main Street. The location contains professional offices and a walk-up ice cream shop. A related agreement was approved for the same location to allow for on-street parking on 3rd Street.

• The matter of a proposed cellphone tower at 751 Apple Lane was continued by the City Council. The city Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the tower at its May 18 meeting amid opposition from several nearby residents.

• A reimbursement agreement was approved with Permian Express Partners, LLC for the reconditioning of an existing 16-inch gas line as part of the Hawkins Run Road extension project. The city will pay $64,768 to recondition the part of gas line that will cross under the new road. The item passed 6-1 with Hartson dissenting.

• Upon a recommendation from Midlothian Economic Development, a bid was awarded to Dake Construction for improvements to the Midlothian Business Park lift station in the amount of $156,300 plus a $39,075 contingency. MED president and CEO Kyle Kinateder said the improvements had been deferred until a tenant was ready to move in, which is now the case.