At a meeting Friday that drew dozens of area veterans, the chairman of the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs announced federal officials will build or expand four Kansas veterans' cemeteries.
The graveyards, said Jack Strukel, are at WaKeeney, Fort Dodge, Winfield and Leavenworth.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the project is expected to cost $18 million. After completion, the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs will be responsible for the cemeteries' upkeep, which, Strukel said, is expected to cost about $500,000 a year.
Strukel, addressed about 65 veterans attending the five-member commission's meeting at Dorsey-Liberty Post 14 of the American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth St.
He urged the group to support a bill before the Kansas Legislature that would allow slot machines in clubs run by veterans' organization. Some of the slot-machine revenue, he said, would be set aside for maintenance at the cemeteries.
"We want all of them to be first-class in every way," he said.
Strukel assured the group that reports that budget cuts would force the commission to close some of its 14 field offices are premature.
"That won't happen unless the five members of this commission can be convinced that it's in the best interests of the veterans of this state," he said.
Commission officials offered little insight on federal discussions on combining some of the services offered at the veterans hospital in Leavenworth with those at the hospital in Topeka, cutting costs by about $7.4 million.
"Those decisions have not been made," said Gene "Stoney" Wages, the commission's executive director.
Earlier, Strukel presented World War II veteran and former Kansas House Speaker Pete McGill with several medals, including a Bronze Star, that McGill had earned but not received during the war.