Grinnell Veterans May Lose Memorial Building

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GRINNELL, Iowa -- Since the 1950s, the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building has been a place that veterans in the town could be proud of. Now, they are in danger of losing a building that was created specifically to honor their sacrifices.

The town is coming together at RJ’s Barber Shop, collecting signatures to keep the memorial building open.

“If we get enough signatures, we put it out there for a citywide vote and the people could speak for what they want,” said Master Sgt. Air Force veteran Randy Hotchkin.

The petition would allow residents to vote for a levy that would increase taxes on a home for 20 years to help the building that has been unusable and unsafe after asbestos removal in 2012.

“$20 a year for a $50,000 home for the next 20 years and those funds would be used for the Vets Memorial Building,” Hotchkin said.

Recently, volunteers were seen giving the building new life.

“I think a lot of work was done and those volunteers deserve a lot of recognition,” Hotchkin said.

But city officials saw it differently.

“If the work is to be done by volunteers, we will need to be provided evidence that the volunteers have had the proper safety training to perform the work, have the licenses and skills to perform the work properly,” said city manager Russ Behrens.

The city has since locked the doors on everyone.

“Locking the doors shows a little less enthusiasm for the project as a whole,” Hotchkin said.

Grinnell currently has a $3 million plan to renovate the park that surrounds the building but has denied a request from the Veterans Commission to help fund their project.

“I think it is a slap in the face to veterans who have worked so hard and supported us,” said Tammy Kriegel, of the Veterans Commission Task Force.

Locked out and left waiting on the city's decision to remove the building and replace it with a different type of monument has left veterans feeling one way.

“Now they feel displaced,” Kriegel said.

City officials say the petition needs 67 signatures in order to take the levy proposal to a citywide vote.