Laurel deserves another chance to get firefighters’ memorial right

From the Publisher
David Keyes

Laurel needs a mulligan when it comes to keeping the Montana Firefighters’ Memorial here.
For you non golfers, a mulligan is a do-over when a player is allowed a second chance when “something went wrong through bad luck or a blunder.”
Rep. Vince Ricci and lobbyist Jeff Laszloffy were caught by surprise on Tuesday when Senate Bill 267 appeared in committee with the apparent backing of numerous firechiefs and members of the Montana Firefighters Association and other firefighting organizations. The bill proposes moving the memorial to Helena.
Unfortunately, the proponents of SB 267 have a pretty good case on the surface.
Gov. Judy Martz declared Laurel the home of the memorial in 2003 and not a whole lot has been done since then.
The memorial is designed to recognize firefighters who died in action or served more than 20 years as a firefighter.
Cement work, flagpoles and lighting are in and were done last summer. What hasn’t been completed is the memorial wall, a reflective pool with fountains, several benches, and several firefighter statues.
The memorial is located next to the Laurel Fire Department.
There are definitely more questions than answers about why the memorial has been delayed more than 14 years.
Committee chair Sen. Dee Brown gave Laurel a day to come back with conceptual drawings, a budget and a timeline for completion.
The cost of the memorial was $500,000 in 2003. The funding was to come from many sources and there are questions about how much has been raised and spent. Some fire chiefs testified that Laurel had also had poor communication about the progress of the memorial.
In the meantime, costs continue to rise.
The problem is Corey Mcilvain, the chairman of the memorial committee, was not part of the original committee that attracted the memorial to Laurel. Between committee members being deployed overseas and numerous other impediments, construction stagnated.
Here’s where the mulligan comes in. Laurel is the perfect location for the memorial. If there is a town that supports firefighters, Laurel is it. This town takes great pride in the firefighters and as a result, the firefighters put on the best fireworks show in the state and are also top-notch in fighting local fires.
As long as McIlvain can produce an intelligent plan and account for funds, Laurel deserves to have the Montana Firefighters’ Memorial right here.

David Keyes is publisher of the Laurel Outlook.

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