By Lisa Soule
Killeen Daily Herald
As work continues on new veterans cemeteries in Killeen and Mission, the Texas State Veterans Cemetery Commission is ready to launch a third state cemetery project.
Commissioners today will review proposals from Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi and Smith and Gregg counties.
In looking for additional cemetery locations, the Veterans Land Board targeted 11 counties with high-density veteran populations.
Nine proposals were received by the July 1 deadline, said Veterans Land Board spokesman Jim Suydan.
Killeen's cemetery was the first project to get under way after Texas voters approved a measure in November 2001, authorizing $500 million in tax free, general obligation bonds for veterans' housing assistance. The revenue from the housing assistance loans will help pay maintenance and operations cost for up to seven veterans cemeteries.
The 174-acre Killeen site will be named the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is expected to open in the summer of 2005.
Killeen veteran Alexander Vernon, who also serves on the Board of the Texas Veterans Commission, said area veterans had asked the Texas Land Board not to name the new cemetery after a particular person.
Building costs for the first, $8.1 million phase of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery are being funded by a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Construction is about 25 percent complete," Suydan said of the Killeen cemetery. "They have done a lot of site work preparation, foundations and have dug an irrigation pond."
Phase 1 construction includes an information center, administration building, committal shelter columbarium for about 1,100 cremated remains, an assembly area and 6,500 burial sites.
Construction is just beginning at the 75-acre mission site which is slated for completion in 2006, Suydan said. The Mission location has room for about 5,000 burials in its first phase.
The state is still unsure about who will run the Central Texas State Cemetery when it opens. Killeen City Manager David Blackburn said the city will not likely move in that direction.
"We had discussion for several weeks," Blackburn said. "It was mutually agreed that the state would issue a request for proposals."
Suydan said the request seeking a cemetery operator would likely be issued in the next two weeks.
The new state cemeteries will follow the same eligibility and burial rules now in place at national cemeteries.
Contact Lisa Soule at firstname.lastname@example.org