Memorial group seeks county funds

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners on Tuesday heard from Steve Fosness of the Martin County Veterans Memorial Committee. He gave a brief update on the project.

“So far for the year, we’ve achieved 25 percent of our fundraising, and our goal is $500,000,” he stated. “So far at the site, we’ve installed a 70-foot flagpole and put up an entrance sign. The next project within phase one is to put in the foundation for the wall, and this fall we’re still planning to put in lighting for the flag and the sign.”

After a discussion about various technical details related to the project, Commissioner Elliot Belgard noted that the committee had not made any financial requests from the county, and asked if there would be any. Fosness answered in the affirmative, stating he would like to make that request now.

“It would not be a continuous thing on your budget; it would be a one-time donation,” he said.

Belgard noted the issue had been contentious in the past, because of the board’s inability to help other communities with their memorials, due to those communities not being the county seat. Another issue involves many people saying they believe the project should be self-funded.

“I’ve got no problem with making a one-time contribution to it,” Belgard said.

“The other thing that I try to remind people that needs to be part of the discussion is what our real mission for the veterans of this county is. That’s to help take care of their needs,” said Belgard, referencing the Veterans Service Office. “This (the memorial) is a good endeavor and wonderful thing to do, but the more important thing for us is to keep financing and take care of their actual needs.”

Commissioner Dan Schmidtke said he is grateful for the committee, noting that when it heard the county could not give money to the Trimont veterans memorial for gravel, the committee wrote a check.

“Our main goal is to help other communities,” said committee member Terry Anderson of Fairmont. “We encourage them to become a part of our group.”

Those who want to learn more about the memorial can check out its website at

Turning to other business, commissioners heard from Sonja Fortune, executive director of Red Rock Center for the Arts in Fairmont. Red Rock is operated by the Martin County Preservation Association, and Fortune was present to address a recent decision by the commissioners to eliminate funding to the preservation group. The cut is $4,050.

“As a non-profit, we run on a very conservative budget and any time we lose anticipated funds we need to reach out in hopes the community will help,” Fortune said. “The hardest thing about being a non-profit is that there are no guarantees.”

Fortune was not alone, as Jerry Miller, recently elected to the board of directors for the Preservation Association, also was present to address the board concerning the cut. After hearing from Fortune and Miller about various projects and associated costs at Red Rock, Belgard said the board will reconsider its decision.