Vietnam War statues at Warner Robins City Hall tell a story
A deal between Warner Robins and Fort Valley will provide a location for long-anticipated veterans memorial park and could potentially spark new development.
The agreement between the two cities will allow Warner Robins to provide utility service on the 60 acres near Russell Parkway, Ga. 41 and Lakeview Road. The land was part of the service delivery area for the Fort Valley Utility Commission.
The deal also creates a 3-acre home for a Vietnam War memorial park and a Warner Robins visitors center.
The two cities will split property and sales tax from any new developments on the property.
The agreement makes sense because it would be more expensive for the Fort Valley Utilities Commission to place utilities on the land because of the location, Fort Valley Mayor Barbara Williams said.
There has been interest from developers about the property, but the hold up has been the lack of water, gas, sewer and fiber service, Warner Robins City Councilman Tim Thomas said.
“That part of Russell Parkway has not seen any growth because of utilities,” Thomas said. “Fort Valley unfortunately could not annex it. If you’re the city of Fort Valley, your utilities commission gets all the utilities. This way the city will get tax revenue and get it pretty much as soon as we finish the first development out there.”
The city will use $450,000 of 2012 special purpose local option sales tax revenue for the park and another $1.2 million of hotel-motel tax revenue earmarked for the I-75 visitors center, according to Warner Robins Public Information Officer Mandy Stella.
The memorial park has been in the works for 11 years, said Tom McLendon, who served in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Air Force.
He said it’s been an emotional roller coaster where broken promises and the deaths of several key supporters left him unsure if it would ever come to reality.
“There’s been so many highs and lows with this thing that, to be honest with you, until I see dirt being moved out there, I don’t get excited about it anymore,” McLendon said.
The park will feature a large granite wall with the names of Georgia soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. Also, two bronze statues will be relocated from Warner Robins City Hall. The statues, Fallen Soldier Battle Cross and the Survivor’s Guilt memorial, were specifically designed for the park.
“We don’t just want to have a Vietnam memorial just to say we have one,” McLendon said. “We want a state-of-the-art memorial that would draw people off the interstate.”
Thomas credited fellow City Councilman Daron Lee and Williams with getting the intergovernmental agreement passed.
“I know the state stepped in and helped us out, but honestly it was Mayor Williams and Daron who spearheaded that,” Thomas said. “Partnerships like this, they’re important. I hope this is going to be successful for us and Fort Valley.”