Shouting erupts over Veterans Memorial plans

Aug. 30, 2014 @ 04:23 PM

People shouted at each other and at Granite Falls officials Thursday over plans for the town’s Veterans Memorial.

About 25 people squared off at a meeting of the town’s Veterans Memorial Committee. On opposite sides of the fight were Jim Mackie, vice chairman of the committee, and his wife, Judy.

The main source of contention was how the names of veterans on the monument should be ordered.

The memorial, which is scheduled to be dedicated on Nov. 11, will have names inscribed in the order that they were submitted to the committee for inscription, as has been planned for months. Some residents favor this plan because they want the names of all of their family members who are veterans listed together even though they had different last names.

But others insist that names should be listed alphabetically, as was discussed at a public meeting last year, and are upset enough about it that they have demanded to be refunded their $100 fee for having a name inscribed on the monument, Judy Mackie said.

“If we’re going to build this monument, let’s build it right,” she said, drawing applause by supporters. “What we put on these stones are there from now on, from generation after generation. I don’t care whether there’s one veteran that’s got a million dollars or a veteran that doesn’t have a penny. Every one of them should be honored, and they should be honored in the same way and manner.”

Jim Mackie said that if people start demanding refunds he would donate to the memorial fund double the money refunded, up to $5,000, because of his devotion to the project.

Gretta Pierce argued it would be difficult for future generations to find their family names if they were not listed alphabetically. Brenda Terrell said senior citizens have difficulty with their eyesight and will struggle finding their relatives’ names among the 406 to be inscribed if they are not alphabetical.

Town Manager Jerry Church said that during planning the committee had looked at nearby veterans memorial monuments such as the ones in Lenoir and Sawmills, which do not have alphabetically listed names and reported no complaints about it.

That prompted town resident Willa Deane Roberts to say, “Doesn’t matter what Sawmills and Lenoir did. We’re Granite Falls.”

A major obstacle to changing plans for the monument is that July 31 was the deadline for inscriptions, so the rubber stencil for the names already has been engraved and would have to be “trashed,” said Bill Morrow of Foothills Memorial, a subcontractor hired by Wilkie Construction Co. Inc., which is constructing the memorial. That would add a few thousand dollars to the memorial’s cost, which currently is $145,723, he said.

Furthermore, Morrow said, he’s already worried about whether the work can be finished by the Nov. 11 dedication date, and having to change the order of the names would guarantee it can’t be completed in time.

Sam Erby, the chairman of the committee, noting that the Mackies were on opposite sides of the argument, asked Judy Mackie why she was just now bringing her concerns forward and whether her husband had told her about the submission deadline.

“When you get up to eat breakfast and you know he’s coming to this meeting, do y’all not communicate?” Erby said.

Jim Mackie piped up, saying they had been married “48 (years), and I’m thinking seriously about changing that.”

Judy Mackie responded, “Me, too.”

After more than an hour of the back-and-forth, the committee closed the comment period. Committee members voted unanimously to keep the names in the order that they were submitted.

Erby said, “We found out three months in (to this project) we couldn’t please everyone, or else we’d still be driving around looking for a location. We can’t be held hostage by a couple of individuals.”

The committee approved making one change, however: removing the names of donors and the current town council members from a 4-foot black granite pillar in the middle of the memorial. Linda Crowder said those names should be on a separate plaque or on benches, not on the monument itself. She said she wanted to “ensure that every veteran was recognized, . . . not our rich donors.”

Police Chief Ritch Bolick, a committee member, suggested that the veteran names that were killed in action be placed on the pillar instead, and the committee agreed. No new location was chosen for the names of donors and council members.