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Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fort Riley veterans cemetery construction set to start in fall

May 30, 2007

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— After years of delays, construction of a veterans cemetery at Fort Riley could begin in October, according to the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs.

Formal groundbreaking for the cemetery on the eastern edge of the fort will be on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

In 1999, the Kansas Legislature authorized the commission to enter an agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to build four state veterans cemeteries in Kansas. The cemetery at Fort Riley was to have been constructed first, but several delays led to cemeteries being built first at Fort Dodge, Winfield and WaKeeney.

Kafer Peele, the veterans commission cemetery program director, said the Fort Riley delay was caused mostly by problems with land transfers.

In March 2006, 90 acres of federal land was transferred from the U.S. Army to the state. The plans are being reviewed by the Veterans Administration.

Once the Veterans Administration approves the plans, the veterans commission will have a public meeting to review the project. After that, construction bids on the first phase of the project could be sent out in July or August, with construction starting in October.

The first phase, at an estimated cost of $7 million, could be completed a year after construction begins.

"The creation of the veterans cemetery at Fort Riley is the culmination of a lot of hard work by veterans, local residents, legislators and KCVA," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in a prepared statement. "It will allow us to honor the memory of the men and women who bravely served our state and nation."

The first phase involves about a third of the 90-acre tract, which will allow 11,000 interments. Options will include in-ground casket burials, above-ground columbarium walls, in-ground cremains burials and a scattering garden with memorial wall.

The federal government funds construction of the cemetery and provides all necessary equipment. When construction is complete, the state assumes responsibility for all burials and maintenance.

The state also has veterans cemeteries in Leavenworth, Fort Leavenworth and Fort Scott.

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