Almost three months ago Hobbs City Commissioner Don Gerth, along with Commissioners Larron Fields, Joe Calderon and Marshall Newman, voted down a measure to start construction on a Hobbs Veterans Memorial Park almost three years in the making. The measure failed.
During Monday’s Hobbs City Commission meeting Gerth brought the measure back to the commission for consideration of starting the bidding process for construction. The measure passed by a 6-1 vote with Gerth, Fields, and Calderon joining fellow City Commissioners Dwayne Penick, Chris Mills, and Mayor Sam Cobb. Calderon moved to have the commission vote and Fields seconded the motion.
The current project has the city committing around $1,079,456.44. Because of city financial concerns Newman, a veteran, was the lone “no” vote.
“I don’t have anything against the memorial itself, it’s just the dollar amount. For right now,” Newman said before the vote. “I’m not sure what our economy is going to do. I am not sure this is the time to jump into a million dollar project.”
The financial reason was the same reason why Newman, Fields, Calderon and Gerth voted “no” during the January vote. But times have changed. With Lea County seeing its COVID-19 positive cases lowered, its color status of turquoise through state protocols has allowed local businesses to open up, thereby improving the economy.
That seemed to be enough of a reason to move forward in the eyes of the commission.
With the approval city staff can now send the project out for bid for construction.
“Hopefully we can go back to bid and get some good numbers,” Cobb said following the vote.
As a bonus, the cost to the city is $300,000 cheaper than what it would have been in January thanks to an award from the Lea County Commission in March.
That knocked the city’s current cost down to just more than $1 million. In it’s revised fiscal year 2021 budget the proposed cost of the memorial was set at $1,400,000. More than $20,000 was paid for design, asbestos, inspection and tower removal services at the site.
The Veterans Memorial Park is scheduled to be built on the old Hobbs Army Airfield, which now is partially encompassed by Rockwind golf course and Harry McAdams Park. The memorial is set to be near the entrance to Harry McAdams Park and the New Mexico State Police office on Jack Gomez Blvd.
According to the city, the memorial is meant as a place for honor and healing; educate how many have served and in what capacity and celebrate through various events.
Penick, a veteran, has been one of the lead members of the committee established in 2018 to create the memorial.
“I’m really excited to get this project underway,” Penick said before the commission vote. “I think our veterans deserve this project and the city of Hobbs. We owe them that.”
During his comments at the end of the commission meeting Penick was thankful to Gerth for putting the measure back on the commission’s agenda. One city law stipulation is a failed measure can only be brought forth before the commission by one of the commissioners who originally voted it down.
Mills, a veteran, commented the memorial also could serve as an educational tool for Lea County’s youth.
“This sort of a project, we talk about it being for the veterans, it’s also for the kids,” Mills said. “You talk to children in communities and they have no idea, no connection to a lot of people in their community who served; who fought in wars for this freedom that we value so dearly. It’s an opportunity and a place to educated kids. So we don’t want to forget about that. This is a place where school groups can go and learn about people in this community.”
One of the features visitors could see is a F-105 fighter jet. The aircraft was used by the U.S. Air Force during the early years of the Vietnam War, Penick said. Penick said the aircraft was found by former U.S. congressman and Hobbs native Steve Pearce.
“Steve was looking for equipment for us to display (at the site) and we were originally looking for a Huey (helicopter) and he called to say he had found an F-105 fighter jet,” Penick said. “He has already got all the paperwork on the fighter jet and they are trying to work out arrangements to get it shipped down here. They are going to handle that as well so (the City) will not be out any costs of transportation.”