Politics & Government

Warner Robins considers Vietnam memorial in new location

WARNER ROBINS -- City leaders said Monday that Warner Robins will build a visitors center with an attached memorial to Vietnam veterans, but the memorial likely will land in a place some veterans may not like.

Tom McLendon, a U.S. Air Force veteran who lives in Byron, has been working for years to get a memorial built on one particular piece of land off Vietnam Veterans Memorial Parkway. But Councilman Tim Thomas told The Telegraph the city is negotiating to buy an alternate tract near Russell Parkway and Interstate 75 that would be cheaper than the land McLendon wants the city to purchase.

McLendon said the owner of the Veterans Parkway land he favors has offered to donate 2 acres and sell a third for $70,000. Thomas, though, said it would cost $150,000 to $200,000 to build a road to the back of the property where the memorial would be built.

For comparison, the Groome Transportation bus depot land -- which is near where McLendon wants the memorial built -- sold for about $100,000 an acre, according to Peach County property records.

“May 8th will be seven years, three mayors and 12 council members we tried to work with on this project,” McLendon said. He also said two members of Congress initially promised to help, but that hasn’t gone anywhere.

“It kind of makes me mad,” he said.

McLendon told the council Monday that he has been so frustrated that he thought about abandoning the project altogether.

Mayor Randy Toms said McLendon was pushing the Veterans Parkway property and wouldn’t consider other sites.

“You just can’t be so hard set on one location, and there may be a better location out there,” Toms told him during Monday’s council meeting.

At one point, McLendon made a reference to a 2007 deal for the land for the property, but provided no other details.

City Attorney Jim Elliott, however, told The Telegraph the city had “no signed contract to purchase any particular property and no requirement to do so in any particular location.”

Thomas said the welcome center, Vietnam memorial, a parking lot and the land all could be built with $1.3 million in hotel-motel revenues.

Meanwhile, the city also is contemplating a memorial to veterans of all wars that would be built in front of City Hall using special purpose local option sales tax money.

After an executive session discussion Monday, Toms announced he had been given the authority by the council to negotiate a land deal and seek proposals for the visitors center and Vietnam veterans memorial.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.