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Council approves design of WWII memorial
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The Savannah City Council voted unanimously on May 7 to approve the design of the proposed World War II monument that will grace the riverfront. For a while, it looked as though the monument might not be built.

Discussion and some dissension has been going back and forth between the Veterans Council of Chatham County and the Savannah-Chatham County Historic Site and Monument Commission about as long as the United States fought in World War II. The disputes were over the location of the monument -- originally planned for Oglethorpe Square -- and its design.

That battle is over, but the veterans now face an even bigger challenge -- raising about $1.4 million to complete construction. But the veterans are up for that challenge, says veterans council Chairman Bill Quinan.

"This will be a world-class memorial to those who sacrificed their all in World War II and as a tribute to the greatest generation," Quinan said.

Council members praised the final design. "It will be a very high quality monument that will be of national significance," Mayor Otis Johnson said.

The council had previously approved the monument site along the riverfront at its Jan. 6 meeting. Designed by Eric Meyerhoff, the monument will feature two cast bronze hemispheres, titled A World Apart.

The monument will also feature a memorial with names of those who gave their lives on an interior wall, plus tributes on granite pedestals to all branches of military. The memorial also will recognize the homefront effort, including a symbolic Victory Garden around the hemispheres.

The site itself is significant and represents Savannah’s role as a Lend-Lease cargo port and shipbuilding center during the war. The monument will feature a black granite walkway that will be etched with a map of the port as it looked during the war years.

City Archivist Luciana Spracher said the site just west of the Hyatt has many advantages. "The history of the riverfront is tied into the local effort to win the war," she said.

"It provided more suitable environment for the scale and design of this sculpture," Spracher said. "The bronze sculpture will represent the global nature of the war."

The areas of the monument that represent water will be colored blue through a patina process, Spracher said. "The interior of the sculpture is a sheltered memorial, a place for reflection," she said.

A memorial brick walkway will allow the community to participate in raising money by purchasing commemorative bricks for $100 each. Alderman Clifton Jones told the veterans council representatives he has already pledged to buy a brick for the walkway, and said he is challenging other council members to do the same.

"We all know this monument is a testament to a dying population, in terms of their part in the war and what they did for freedom in the entire world," Jones said. "We want to congratulate you."

Alderwoman Edna Jackson said the council members have already accepted Jones’ challenge and plan to donate, but said more must be done. "I think the donation has to go beyond the city council and to the community," she said.

"We’ve already all accepted the challenge," Alderman Jeff Felser added. "Each and every one of us is going to do our part. We need different groups in the community to do their parts, and we‘ll be calling on them."

The total estimated cost of the project is $2,404,707. The veteran’s council has $225,000 in hand for the project and has been promised $750,000 in donated materials and labor.

The rest of the funding will come through private and corporate donations and special fundraising events, plus in-kind donations. Quinan said the ground-breaking ceremony for the monument has been set for Memorial Day, May 25, at 3 p.m.

In other action, the council discussed the implementation of a Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) policy. The council has been seeking to increase minority participation in city projects as part of its effort to make the city an economically thriving community for all of its citizens.

A disparity study was conducted and results currently are with the county attorney for review. "It’s well on its way to being signed," says Assistant City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney.

A certification program has been implemented and as of next March, all minority businesses that do business with the city will be required to be a certified vendor. A few businesses are already certified, Small-Toney said.

Certification is a long and complex process, and some business owners may have to be coaxed to accomplish it, Small-Toney said.

"We need to start convincing people they need to be certified before March," Alderwoman Mary Osborne said.

City Manager Michael Brown said he and his staff would come back with a resolution for the council to consider in about a month.