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Construction of Veterans Park moving forward

Commonwealth Journal - 8/7/2022

Aug. 4—While work on the Veterans Park in downtown Somerset is behind schedule, construction and fundraising efforts are full steam ahead, according to SPEDA President/CEO Chris Girdler.

Girdler updated board members of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) at Thursday's regular monthly meeting.

All of the park's electrical work has been completed, and the next phase of construction should move quickly, Girdler said.

However, with the setbacks, what was once planned as a Memorial Day grand opening may get pushed back all the way to November and Veterans Day — a possible "blessing in disguise," Girdler said.

Meanwhile, fundraising efforts are still in progress. Girdler mentioned the donation made last week by Century 21 Advantage Realty'sAngels Team for $7,000.

He also said that the SPEDA Community Foundation, the non-profit created to fundraise for special community projects such as this, would be issuing a "last call" for sponsors to purchase Founder's Circle Bricks for $500 or $1,000 each.

The overall project was bid out for $510,000. To date, the Community Foundation has raised $240,000.

That leaves around $270,000 left to find, and while the foundation will continue its fundraisers, Girdler proposed to the board a measure that would give the foundation a loan in the meantime.

SPEDA board members approved giving the SPEDA Community Foundation a zero-percent interest loan of $270,000 from SPEDA funds. As the foundation raises the funds, it can repay SPEDA.

"That way we can go forward, head full of steam, and get it completed and not have that on our plate to worry about any longer," Girdler said.

SPEDA board treasurer Seth Atwell advised that the loan should be earmarked for the Veterans Park project only, since there is the possibility the foundation could take on another project in the near future.

Girdler also mentioned that there is a delay in bringing in the park's planned centerpiece, a U.S. Army tank.

He said that the Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) has requested to see the tank's completed "final resting place" before releasing it to the foundation, meaning the park needs to be mostly completed before they can take ownership of the tank.

In other business at SPEDA's meeting, board members approved advertising for requests for proposals from those who want to be involved in the "purchase, planning, design and development of available property in the Valley Oak Complex."

Girdler said the proposals need to come from the private sector that could address "possible needs in the community." The board will review those proposals and, therefore, be allowed to choose which ones fit the Valley Oak area best.

As board member and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck explained, "There might be some ideas that don't necessarily fit there that could go somewhere else. It's a way to bring forward people who want to get stuff done."

Carla Slavey can be reached at


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