Hold up on Fallen Firefighters' Memorial Groundbreaking

Picture by Katherina Yancy, KATV

(KATV) The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters memorial hasbeen in the works for more than 15 years. It, along with a fire safety amphitheaterare planned to go on the State Capitol lawn.

Organizers saythey're disappointed they have not been given a date to break ground eventhough they raised the last of the 1.3 million a year ago. ($150,000 of that is donated labor and services for construction)

Thememorial is to honor the 99 firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice. There will be room to add more names. Widowshave now started a writing campaign urging for construction to start. They tellChannel Seven they have not received a response.

Thestatue has been sitting outside the Arch Street Fire Department for more than 3years, waiting for the 'ok' to move to its permanent home. There are fourimages, phases of fire fighting. In the center 'leather lungs' goes back to the days without amask. A female firefighter paramedic holds a child and administers CPR. There'sa forest fire ranger and a modern fire fighter with full equipment.

Chair of thememorial, Johnny Reep says, "Those names of the firefighterswho have been killed over the years, their families will realize what theirfamilies did in the line of duty will be for nothing unless they see thosenames engraved in granite on the memorial wall."

Reepwas disappointed to receive this letter from the Secretary of State's office,in part:

"Secretary ofState Mark Martin takes serious his charge to maintain the beauty and splendorwhich is the Capitol. Of course the final decision for any memorial belongs tothe Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission."

"Just the factthey say we have the election process, we have Christmas festivities, we havethe legislative session coming. I'm aware of the culture of the Capitol, butthose are not good reasons to hold up this memorial project," Reep adds.

Hesays if the commission is worried about damaging the capitol lawn for agroundbreaking, he has a non-traditional idea. "We can lay tarp andspread fresh dirt on it. We will turn the dirt on top of the tarp, not breakthe ground and when the session is over with start construction."

A deputy with the Secretary of State'soffice tells Channel Seven after new grounds committee members are appointed theycan set a meeting by the first of the year.

Reep concludes, "Construction cost are going up andeveryday inflation eats away at our fundraising pot so we don't want to bebehind and have to raise additional funds again. We have to get a move on."